Life’s greatest lessons are learnt at the most difficult times when we are the most vulnerable. 2021 has been one such year which taught us ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’. But more than that it taught us the values like resilience, gratitude and hope. Sharing some lessons from the fields in Sukma that are defining how we move ahead as an organization and collective:

  1. “Wisdom comes in all forms” In a world where we confuse familiarity with intelligence, we have stopped appreciating wisdom. We always been overwhelmed by the knowledge and resilience of the indigenous communities. The way they have handled Covid situation is something to learn from; be it community restrictions, delegating responsibilities, collective decision making and unfortunately sometimes collective resistance to vaccination and testing. Their ability to survive and sustain during lockdowns because of their minimalistic and sustainable lifestyle is a learning for the entire world. Their houses, the cleanliness, the local  knowledge, their kindness, and culture has been our most significant life lesson. The experiences have made us understand how civilized and resilient the communities are. We often wonder why the tribal communities  are often seen as the “uncivilized ones” who need to be civilized.
  2. “Love is a magical language”Communication plays a vital role in building a relationship between  a child and teacher. But, what will happen if the teacher and a student don’t understand each other’s language? This is exactly what was experienced by our team member Jaspreet in her school. The students didn’t understand her language and she couldn’t understand theirs. To overcome this challenge she chose the universal language of love, laugh and learn. Thus, this magical language helped her to break the boundaries and come forward to learn and explore from each other.
  3. “Sense of possibility and responsibility can make any change happen”After weeks of searching and still not finding enough resources,   we all had given up the idea of  painting our school walls. And one morning to our surprise we saw a young child creating a beautiful drawing on the wall. This scene amazed all of us. All of the time we have been searching outside and the creator was in the school. The students who are often considered us the knowledge receivers have become the contributors here. They taught us the life lessons of limitless possibilities and a sense of responsibility.
  4. “Every child deserves a Safe Childhood”

    In one of his regular classrooms, our team member Fahim asked his students to draw something out of stones. To his shock, most of them drew weapons, guns, bullets, soldiers in uniforms and a local man with arrows and a bow. This particular incident shows the impact of adverse childhood environments on the psyche of these  children. It made us think and work on how a school can be a safe space first before becoming an institute of providing education .

  5. “Never underestimate the power of  passion”Our team member Piyush is a graduate in physical education and a sports player too. The stadium in Sukma didn’t give him much hope on the sports side  regarding the sports abilities the people might have here. His  perception changed soon when one of his students played kho kho so well that it crossed his expectations. His field experiences have won over his theoretical knowledge. From then on we learnt that the size of a stadium can not decide the potential of a place. Here, the passion to learn is higher than the material resources.
  6. “It is not about how much we do , but how well we do.”-Our colleague Priya along with Sushma leads the menstrual hygiene and management programme that works with adolescent girls and women in tribal communities.  They struggled a lot initially to find volunteers for the programme. Their target was 9 volunteers and by the end of one year they were able to connect only 4 volunteers who are today the full time team members of shiksharth serving approx 1000 women and adoloscent girls.  We learnt sometimes it’s okay not to chase numbers and focus on the  depth of  connections we build with the community.
  7. “ Look for the best available solutions instead of the best solutions”Pandemic has forced many students to drop out of school. With the majority of them shifting to online mode, this was neither relevant nor possible for us due to the existing digital divide. We started looking for contextually relevant solutions to cope up with the learning loss. We came up with offline learning solutions which were  executed by more than 70 community youths. This step helped us to reach 15,000 students alone in sukma and over 3.5  lakh students across India. This experience has given us an insight that we can not always be chasing the best solution but we need to create the best solution out of the available resources which is contextually relevant and long lasting.
  8. “Decentralization and  contextualization is the way forward”With the changing scenarios across the globe where we are defining universal norms for every child. We believe that contextualization and decentralization will allow a child to acquire universal concepts through local contexts. Our team member Hari experienced how bringing the local socio- cultural elements into the classroom can help a child to understand the concepts efficiently.
  9. Proximity and active listening leads  to innovation”As a response to the second wave of covid-19 we asked the frontline covid warriors on what they needed. To our surprise they came up with requirements which were not in the mainstream covid agenda. One such example is seeking petrol allowance to be able to drive for 100-200 k.m on a daily basis for vaccination and testing in the remotest parts of the villages. We have given an allowance of 2500 Rs/ month to 30 frontline workers. Another example is when hospitals were busy handling covid cases the institutional deliveries  had stopped which meant women were left with  giving birth at home. The people asked us if we can provide  sanitary pads to women. We heard them and provided them eco friendly sanitary pads made from banana fibre. Many such experiences on what people actually need and what we think that need has  reinforced our belief in listening to the community to create innovative solutions.
  10. “Collective action is the future of social change”–  Our colleague Sushma during her field has always observed the sense of harmony and collectiveness among the tribal. For instance while making a house out of mud bricks they will come together to help one another, or in their fields they come forward and share labour. These common yet extraordinary practices of tribals are a very important lesson for the bigger world. This not only binds them together but also develops a sense of  dignity and respect among each others. The experience of collective has helped us in taking this philosophy forward as we have been a contributor of getting together 25+ organisations under the banner ‘ Collective of Education Orgs in Remote Geographies” and we plan to be active member of many such collaborative platforms.