SAIIER Annual Report 2014-2015: Oli School

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New Creation Sports
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ONE ASIA project
Oli School


Introduction

In Auroville, the local Indian community cohabits together with the international community. However, the social and cultural gap persists, especially between Indian villagers and Aurovilians. Constant efforts are made to avoid this gap that goes against the values advocated by Auroville. The team at Oli School believe that the way to make a change is through education, starting at the earliest years of life.

Around the world, and more among the poor, the so-called alternative schools such as Montessori or Steiner-Waldorf schools, are reserved for social elite that can meet the high costs of education of their children. Today it is still very rare that schools for the children of poor villages, such as those surrounding Auroville, adopt such pedagogies although their efficiency has been proven in all social and cultural contexts.

Oli School was born to fill this gap. Our objective is to offer to underprivileged populations, at the fringe of Indian society, the possibility of human and social empowerment. In fact, we believe that children have the natural capacity to build relationships and cooperate, and carry the values of peace and joy of life that can unfold in a caring school environment. And we believe that, as asserted by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, but also by other educators like Maria Montessori, education is the best way to raise consciousness. From the point of view of an educational choice, we can say Oli School tries to combines the experience and vision of two major currents: “free progress” and the Montessori pedagogy.

Activities of the year

During the year 2014 to 2015 Oli School went through a period of transition. Now we work in a renewed structure and educational view.

Oli School started in 2010 and since July 2013 has been functioning with with a crèche and kindergarten (kids 1.6 to 6 years). In July 2014 the school moved from New Creation community to the Last School campus in Aspiration. At present Oli School serves 100 kids aged 2 to 6 years. Six Aurovilians make up an active support group of the school, and there is one main financial donor. There are eleven teachers working and being continually trained at the school, two ammas, and one Newcomer who is the art teacher.

Through these years of work we came up with an Oli school curriculum. We try to respect the alternation of intellectual, practical, physical and sensory activities, according to the Montessori principles and in agreement with the integral education approach. Our classrooms are set up to answer the needs of the kids and teachers.

During the past years, our kids took part in the Nirmiti project and visited the Matrimandir. We received very positive feedback from the Matrimandir team and would like to continue with this activity twice a month. The Nirmiti project of the Auroville Botanical Gardens is based on the principles of land-art, which seek to create with objects that are found in nature. It takes place in an environment of calm that helps quiet the mind, where the kids have an opportunity to make different creations, from simple drawings with a few leaves to an installation built over several days. All the creations are ephemeral; what is most important is to emphasize the energy of the creation and not its result. This is how we educate the children to be, by creating a space where they can express themselves and produce something without having to worry about the results.

Outcomes

The kids who leave the school at the age of 6 years old are ready to start any type of education on an elementary level.

We strive to create an educative community through our work. It is important to us to relate with the families of the children who attend Oli School. We see education as concerning the entire community (children, parents, staff). This means, for example, that children are welcomed in an environment that takes into account the situation of poverty of their families (the school provides at least two meals), that parents are regularly informed (by school/parents meetings) of the pedagogy practiced by the school, and that teachers are trained in an empowering approach.

A lot of attention is given to the professional quality of the teachers and assistants. At the school, with the exception of the director, the teaching staff consists mainly of women from nearby Tamil villages who have, in principle, not received any teaching or specialized training. The aim of the school is to provide a safe and harmonious environment where all including the teachers can “be” and empower themselves. The school therefore undertakes training of the teachers as soon as they are hired. This training is provided mostly by Ana Garcia, who is trained in the Montessori pedagogy. We also set up workshops for the teachers in subjects such as Holoenergy, arts and crafts, English language, blocks, Play of Painting, swimming, free dance, introduction to integral education, and storytelling to provide additional educational tools and to improve the quality of their presence with the children.

Future direction

Besides the children's education and training for teachers, other courses are planned in the future for families, in accordance with the declared objective of the establishment of an educational community.

We are building a new playground to support development of the children’s gross motor skills, and working on an extension of the classroom buildings.

Conclusion

At Oli School we try to offer a clean, harmonious and safe environment that covers the basic needs of a child between 2 to 6 years old. Our classrooms and projects aim to help our students be creative and spontaneous, develop awareness for the surroundings and the natural environment, and know a place of silence where they can contact with their inner peace.


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New Creation Sports
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ONE ASIA project