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New things in old places: Seoni 3

July 17, 2013

Gaurav came back to his family home and for the past three years has been trying to develop villages near Seoni. His interest in education (fed by his involvement as a founding member of SWANS, OASiS’s volunteering organization, and work with the museum school) brought him into contact with other people from Seoni or the villages. One [I forget his name!] had a similar story to Gaurav. Moving from school to a plum contract with the Defense Department, he was disillusioned by the corruption he saw. He moved back home, took a job with the government to make ends meet but devotes his time to social work. He had driven 100 km to meet with us and discuss the project with Pradeep and the rest of the team.

Anyways, the four of them decided to form Agrini, an organization that aimed to provide better education to children in the villages. For younger children, Agrini has outfitted playschools in several villages with bright murals, screens where Youtube clips can be played and nearby resource centres where students can teach themselves how to use computers.

Outreach to older students is Agrini’s next concern and arguably its chief objective. They have adapted OASiS’s Rural Education Model and want to pilot it. They want to establish schools where college-aged children can go to learn about the best practices in rural development and about how to convince their communities to adopt whichever ones are appropriate. These students will work on projects like fish farming methods (Agrini has already secured a large pond to use), chicken farming, organic farming and using traditional methods and seeds.

I visited some of these projects during my two day stay. Many were yet to be implemented but I saw what pieces were there and imagined. Unlike the Museum School, chugging along in its seventh year of operation, the rural school is as green as the enormous tomato plants we visited in a “poly-house” (a green house of sorts, but with plastic sheet walls instead of glass). So much is still to be figured out and implemented. Big conversations about what the goal of the project should be are carried out with urgency because decisions are being made all the time. They are navigating things a bit by the seat of their pants, but that is how most of them like it. “It’s very different from my style doing of things,” admitted Pradeep, “but they like to be firefighters, putting out little blazes here and there.”

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