SAIIER 2013:Life Education Centre

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Life Education Centre



Goals and objectives

The aim of the Life Education Centre (LEC) is to provide access to value-oriented education and vocational training for disadvantaged village teenage girls, and to improve their socio-economic conditions through capacity building and personal empowerment.

The Life Education Centre‘s objectives are to:

  • Provide increased training opportunities for 15+, appropriate to their specific needs, in order to gain a greater range of vocational skills and improve their income-generating capacity.
  • Through core-quality empowerment sessions, discussions and counseling, build capacities of students to be able to decide what they would like to do in their future.

Program details

This specific project consists of a 2-year training programme for teenage girls, who have dropped out of school, giving them training in functional skills like English, vocational skills like tailoring, crochet, typing, and social awareness and human interactive skills using group discussions, personal counselling, diary writing, study tours, and culture-related open sessions. From last year we have started extended our activities to include also non-full time students as part of regular students – these include children with special needs as part-time students.

Outcomes

This year we had 12 regular full time students and 6 part-time students, participating in regular daily activities (of classes for half day and skill training for half day).

Besides the daily activities, the following special classes, events, visits and workshops took place this year:

  • The completion of a 3-month Health Caregiver training program for 2 batches of trainees (totally 17 students).
  • Workshop on pelvis-exercises from Aviva's Method S.O.S for women. From a training of trainers, our supervisor coordinator Indirani has conducted her own session with 15 students and was supervised by the main trainer.
  • The Aravind Eye Hospital HR team recruited, with our help, 3 village girls (from the neighbouring area) as trainee nurses .
  • Visit to Vadalur to see the places of importance related to the life and work of Sri Ramalinga Swamigal - this was part of the conclusions of a one-month project on his spiritual teachings.
  • Our art therapist who works with special needs girls, has also initiated 2 special projects:
  • In January, exploring the 12 qualities of the Mother using art work and then making an Auroville Radio presentation of this;
  • In February, a video documentation of a collective art therapy session using the 12 qualities of the Mother in a beautiful collective mandala creation.
  • Monthly Matrimandir visit – every month on the first Tuesday we go to the Matrimandir for mediation – this has been happening since November 2012 onwards – and also meditate in one petal chamber (each time). This coincides with the art therapy work that they have been doing.
  • 2 students who had completed their 12th Standard exams came to LEC for 4 months and were given a short-term training in tailoring and other life skills; we provided them (and their parents) with adequate counseling support to be able direct them into good colleges in Pondicherry. We have directed one of them to obtain a scholarship for her education.
  • 7 students of LEC appeared for their BA/BCOM exams (6 for their 3rd year and 1 for the 1st year) – 4 of them passed in all the subjects, while the rest have 1-2 arrear papers to complete. One student who took the typing (Lower level Tamil) has passed with distinction and is now attending special classes to do her Higher level Tamil.
  • A special CPR and first aid training for more than 40 participants was conducted by ALERT (from Chennai).
  • Screening of the video Auroville Without Barriers, for the first time in Auroville. This video, done by Accessible Auroville, showed and followed an average day in Auroville in the life of a 35 year old Italian visitor friend who has been wheelchair dependent since age 13. This video gives a realistic portrayal of our actual situation on the ground in Auroville. From the side of LEC, we will be fulfilling 2 commitments shortly in this aspect – the construction of an over-bridge at the entrance of LEC which will allow for easy access into the school for all people, and making one of our bigger classrooms “accessible” for all people by making a ramp.
  • A one-day seminar for the awareness of alcohol dependency was held. This is the very first one taken as part of a long process towards disseminating correct information and sharing experiences towards de-mystifying the subject of alcoholism, particularly for our village women in this area. Our logistical collaborator in this program was Ilaignarkal Education Centre.
  • Seminar on “Care” as part of annual Women's Council of the Sri Aurobindo Society: 75 delegates attended this 3-day seminar held in Pondy on November; 15 of our LEC students and staff participated actively in the group discussions and staged a skit.
  • Special classes on Child Protection were conducted by Aurovilians Suriyagandhi and Davaselvy of the Auroville Child Protection Service group; 2 members of LEC supervisory staff participated in the August 2012 Auroville CPS Trainings given by professionals.
  • During the 2 months of April and May, weekly classes were given by Aurovilian Shankar (Aikiyam School) on the interpretation of the mythology Ramayana in today‘s contemporary world.
  • Mime workshops were conducted by Drupad for LEC girls and Aurovilians in Sept 2012.
  • 4 staff of LEC attended a special workshop by Sabina Joy on goals, aims and purpose setting, based on a movie called The Secret. These workshops were spread over 2 sessions, and subsequently these sessions were translated into Tamil for our supervisory staff.
  • Our team is joined by Devi, as long-term volunteer from 1st Feb onwards for a year and a half. We are so blessed to have her presence and support amongst us, that brings a new surge of energy and perspective for our work. Devi will take up also independent responsibilities of completing the case studies (of students who we have recorded in Nov-Dec) and making them as booklets.
  • From 1st Feb, we have another volunteer, Alex, giving 3 of our students special computer classes – he gives classes 3 times week. He will be with us till May 2013, and then he will return after a few months.
  • While Zerina is no longer full time with us (due to our funding), we are grateful for her presence of at least one time a week – to give counseling support to the girls, especially the younger ones. We still manage to keep Wednesdays mornings for Group discussions where Zerina can attend.
  • We had 2 seminars in LEC (for fund-raising) over Feb and March which were attended by 5 and 4 participants respectively; this came out of an strong initiative from a guest, who would like to help us create good fund-raising strategies.
  • From an idea of our support group member Sudharsan, Krupa has designed and printed a permanent banner for LEC, which we used during the 23rd March event.
  • As part of life-stories documentation of present and old students, we visited Morattandi village to meet 4 of our old students; we spent half a day listening to their stories.

Difficulties

We have been working for 21 years now and in the last 3-4 years, the supplementary education that we offer for school drop-outs is not really much needed in this area. Villagers want to take up regular full-time education and hence girls today are studying further in the normal education (and take loans to study higher) and hence we have fewer and fewer drop-outs - which by itself, is good - so the students that we have more or less represent the last generation of real drop-outs.

This is the reason why we have many new students who come during the first few months of the academic year (April, just after they have completed their school exams); they come to LEC for 3-4 months either till their results are declared and/or they have obtained admission into a college. While this interrupts our yearly plan, we have decided not to let this trend bother us, and for all long or short as the student is there, she will get the maximum advantage of being part of an life educational centre – of being students taking a variety of classes (not just tailoring) with quality teachers from Auroville, in a place that tries to awaken the consciousness.

Also because of the same reason of more students going for formal higher education after 12th Standard, we end up giving advice and counseling to many girls about what this in reality means in terms of time, costs, returns, practicality. These are aspects that neither they nor their families have ever contemplated and then taken decisions. This means a lot of effort from our side, but we feel this counseling is needed at this stage. What changes is that the existing wide range of activities will be reduced to fit into our very tight budget for this year 2013-14 (about the next year, we don‘t have a clue!), but we are hopeful that other activities of Auroville can be done here at LEC, so that there is better resource utilization of space and capacities. The entire scope of so many activities in this year were possible only because of the human resources of so many Aurovilians, support group members and volunteers in the planning and execution of activites. We would like to become more and more dependent on Aurovilians for this work.

For the amount of works and efforts being put in by so many of us over the years (21 years), if LEC‘s (and therefore Auroville‘s) quality and sincere work should continue for the women of the villages close to Auroville (and therefore for their families), we need to get more active support from Auroville also (BCC). Due to finance difficulties we have lost our best human resources, which basically undermines the scope and sustainability of not just our work but Auroville‘s work also!

This year we made no students' house visits - however old students visited at LEC for various occasions (alcohol seminar, open day, annual day).

This is a community education centre – this means we expect on the students themselves to take everyday charge of the campus – basic work of preparing the snacks, cleaning the toilets, class-rooms, buying the provisions, etc; this is not easy as the students who come are not used to doing this, but need to learn about it and while this takes a good time of the working hours, we feel we should not depend on paid staff for this basic work; the more difficult tasks of garden maintenance and security is done with hired help.

Future plans

  • Offer LEC facilties for more health related well-being workshops and trainings for the local people (e.g.: somatics, pranayama, pelvic floor exercises).
  • The regular daily skill training in tailoring; regular daily and weekly classes of English, chanting, story-telling, monthly group discussions and counseling will continue, besides special classes on Mother and Sri Aurobindo's yoga and on the work of ancient seers of Tamil Nadu.
  • The possibility of LEC to remain as a counseling centre for women will always be available.
  • Resume short-term trainings on Social and Health care-giving for Auroville, with theory and practicals.