AHEAD INITIATIVES
 
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Education Initiative 
 
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Education Initiative
Over the two decades that many at Ahead have been involved with rural development in West Bengal, it has become apparent that the education provided in rural schools, which include the children of the poorest families, is urban-centric, highly inappropriate to the educational needs of the children, and far removed from the local socio-cultural setting of their communities. The other more insidious problem is the attitudinal change which the present educational system inculcates, where a multitude of diverse cultures are fast eroding and being replaced by a ‘better’ urban culture and consumer driven economy the sustainability of which intellectuals worldwide are now beginning to question.
imbibing their cultural heritage
It could be argued that local indigenous knowledge, values and ‘agri’ - culture are the very obstacles to ‘development’ that education aims to replace so as to provide an opportunity to the poor to benefit from the higher standards of living afforded by urbanised modern industrial society. However, even if that was true, the present stark reality is that of a growing number of frustrated youth including the very poor who neither have the vocation skills to address their livelihood issues in the rural context nor life skills such as participative democratic processes so necessary to combat marginalisation, impoverishment and poverty for improved health, nutrition, etc.
This leads to the unusual development paradox that ‘capacity building’ on local self governance, health, nutrition, sanitation and natural resource management is still seen as the critical need for even those who have been through compulsory education till standard VIII. Many of these necessary life skills need to be part of their edducation including local indigenous knowledge because of a breakdown in their traditional transmission mechanisms.
A Local Self Governance Approach to supplementing rural education with contextual appropriate localised input
One of the principal causes of the above situation is the cultural divide between Urban and Rural segments, including the fact that the uniform content of education is determined by the Central and State Governments primarily for an urban setting. Local Self Government, in spite of constitutional amendments, are yet to play a role in even managing the education sector let alone determine part of its content, hence preventing a content based on an understanding of local conditions and perceived local needs, supplemented with local indigenous knowledge and thereby helping to preserve the latter.
Using Natural resources
While the National Curriculum Framework (2005) and even the National Knowledge Commission report on school education (2008) has recognised the mismatch and advocated change including the use of community resource persons and the proactive role of local government However, much of it will remains lip service without exemplary initiatives with mainstream rural schools to demonstrate in the field how changes may be wrought through a Local Self Governance Approach to supplementing rural education with contextual appropriate localised input.
It is with this in mind that Ahead Initiatives has floated a platform for rural teachers which includes a vernacular newsletter 'Nabodisha' and a web portal (www.nabodisha.in) of the same name for sharing experiences and promote peer learning in this regard. It has also in partnership with 7 Gram Panchayats (LSGIs) launched a practical grassroot field initiative with schools of their area to learn what is pragmatically possible in contextualising rural education with localised input.
 
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Ahead Initiatives 2009