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An Exploration of School Leadership in Alternative Education

In the thirty schools I visited looking for the wise ones, I found some I could really look up to. They were all women, all around sixty years old, and all of them said that they were not interested in the alternative schooling movement and claimed to run mainstream schools. 


I asked them all the same question – What happens to your school when you retire? They said that they did not know. It wasn't that they hadn't tried really hard to set up a successor. They understood the vital importance of a worthy successor but seemed to realize that it was a process they had very little control over. They knew no structure, no process that would bring another teacher to the place of wisdom they had arrived at. Let me bring in some of their voices here. 

Excerpts from the articles I wrote about alternative schools:

 

ʻʻ I passed through a playground full of busily playing children and waited 10 minutes as Dr Manjiri Nimbkar, the head of the school, finished a meeting and then I walked into the most non-threatening Principal's room that I have ever been to. Dr Nimbkar, wise-gentle-eyed, easy-smiling, sat behind a table in a warm, informal, book-filled room where the visitors side of the table had a low bed. The high sloping ceiling had temporary looking wooden beams but the overall feel was of a nice, cool, comfortable space. Dr Nimbkar is Maharshi Karve's great-grand-daughter and Irawate Karve's grand daughter and carries her lineage lightly and gracefully. Dr Nimbkar told me she spends most of her time in the school talking to people who walk into her room at all times. What a wonderful job description (and executed with a smile), I thought, and how refreshingly different from the picture of a school leader that we usually carry around in our heads. ,,


Alternative school children

(From the article about Kamala Nimbkar Balvidyalaya, Phaltan, Maharashtra)

 

ʻʻSushama is a soft-spoken, polite, gentle, wise woman. During the time we walked around the school many teachers and children spoke to her. Her tone with everyone adult or child was courteous and her interactions had the completeness of wisdom. She appeared like she was part of the in-group in all these situations. We were passing in front of a class and there was a commotion happening. Some small children were talking loudly and laughing. We stopped and asked what was going on. The children explained that some of their friends did not neatly arrange their footwear in the designated place outside the classroom so they were teaching them a lesson. The friends were away somewhere and the laughing children had hidden their chappals under some bushes in the garden in front of the class. The children told Sushama all this as if she were part of their gang and would see the justness of their actions. I noticed that Sushama enjoyed the exchange but gave no adult value judgment like- 'OK, after they learn their lesson please return their chappals;' or even- 'That is a good thing that you have done.' Wisdom and compassion probably go together in people. The school campus is spread out and the buildings are the same ones that Gandhiji walked through. I don't know exactly what it is- the location next to the ashram, or the spread out buildings, or the large trees everywhere, but there is something utterly charming about this school. It felt like the farm and the trees and the buildings with their tiled roofs and the small and big people moving through it- all fit into each other perfectly. There was a completeness to the picture. Perhaps the simplicity of the buildings and the people or their connection with the local which Gandhiji emphasized so much. (This is not an elite English medium school, the teachers and students speak Marathi all the time) ,,


(From the article about Anand Niketan, Wardha, Maharashtra)


-Arun Elassery

Founder, Asli Shiksha

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