Those who found their school too small and who never enjoyed it as much as one should have, were sceptic about the relevance of contemporary education. After schooling, in their youth, they continued to debate on the subject. In order to take the debate to a structured and interactive mode while evolving a concrete response to the real ground situation, GANATAR took shape. It is easy to burst out against uninteresting, useless and irrelevant education system, but that alone does not bring about any change. New, healthy society is possible only with creative attitude, farsightedness and constructive engagement with various aspects of the issue through experiments that may evolve into viable and replicable alternatives. With this perception GANATAR set out to launch understanding and thought on what will be tomorrow’s education(ganatar) instead of existing conventional education (Bhanatar). GANATAR is a collective effort to concretize new scenario of alternative education system. GANATAR was registered as Trust as well as Society under respective legislations in 1992.
There is a proverb in Gujarati – “Bhanyo Pan Ganyo Nahi” – i.e. Literate but not educated. Two abstract nouns are derived from this saying:
Bhanatar from Bhanyo
Ganatar from Ganyo
Those who are familiar with Gujarati language easily understand the broad and deep meaning of the word Ganatar. Bhanatar is synonymous with formal education. Ganatar is a process of learning from experiences through life. The depth of the word Ganatar is derived from the four English words:
+ Self Respect
+ Self Reliance
Bhanatar – i.e. the bookish education is a result of contemporary school education. ‘‘Ganatar’’ is derived through the process of development of one’s personality while undergoing real life experiences along with innovative formal education. Ganatar is a concept that calls for total change in conventional education, but at present we focus on elementary education – an important component of a child’s right to development. Further it is now recognized as a fundamental right granted under the Article 21A of the Constitution of India.
We at GANATAR believe that providing facilities for education for all children in school going age group is the responsibility of the Government in particular and society in general. All children should get equal opportunity irrespective of their socio-economic and geographical imbalances. The fact that education system should be joyful is equally important. Education should be helpful in future practical life and a child should be able to learn from the surrounding environment. Education should cultivate values that promote concern for humanity, democracy, scientific temperament and rational sensitivity. Whatever is required to achieve these ends is GANATAR’s work area. These efforts need not be limited to an organization but should translate into a mass movement. To realize it in practice, people’s participation should be encouraged right from planning stage. We believe in concept of empowering the existing schools suitably rather than developing a parallel system.
More than half of the children, in 6 to 14 year of age group in rural parts are unable to attend school in their village. Major problem in quite a number of areas in Gujarat, is the education of children of migrating workers. Majority of these children help their parents in their work. Children studying in their respective village schools in the first term and migrating with parents in the second term do not enjoy any place in mainstream education. There is neither a policy nor a programme for them. They are unable to appear at the annual exams; if at all they manage to take the exams, they are unable to clear the annual exams. In such circumstances, they are deprived of their basic child right, opportunity for development. Labour – i.e. the child labour becomes inevitable for these children. We do not have authentic data about these children, but through our observation it can be said that they constitute more than 25% of total school push-out (drop-out). In Gujarat, salt pan workers (known as Agarias in local dialect) migrate to Little Rann of Kutchh to work in salt pan. Labourers from Nal Sarovar area migrate to various parts of Gujarat to work in brick kilns (labourers known as Patla in local dialect) and other jobs involving earth work. GANATAR is active with the children of these migrating labourers, experimenting in the field of education.
Deep down in various parts of Little Rann of Kutchh, supplementary seasonal schools have been opened by GANATAR. In Nal Sarovar area migration of children along with their parents has been stopped by opening seasonal hostels in their own villages, while enrolling and retaining them in their respective village schools. Though the issue of migration is common in both situations, the approach to address the issue is different. In Rann, we go with the migrating children and set up temporary seasonal supplementary schools that act as adjunct to the mainstream village schools. In Nal Sarovar area we stop children from migrating by providing them with seasonal hostels that enable the children to continue with their education in the mainstream village schools. Thus, in both the cases experiments of empowering the existing mainstream schools are going on with increasing enrollment and decreasing school push-out (drop-outs).
Both these experiments have opened new avenues. These experiments are being carried out at the grass-root level. Parents’ and other community participation are gained. These experiments of developing and demonstrating viable replicable models have succeeded. Simultaneously we also conduct advocacy with the Government, in an attempt to see that all children of migrant families in Gujarat get benefit of these avenues that provide access to elementary education and confidence is built that innovative schemes, programmes and policy for making elementary education universal will be introduced. We are aware that a lot needs to be done to translate it into reality. GANATAR is active in this direction.