A NOTE ON UDAVI SCHOOL
Udavi School was started in the early 70s by Nata, a disciple of Mother as part of the Auroshikha incense factory. It started as a Balwadi which is a kind of Creche. The first concerns were hygiene, clean clothes, food. These were the beginnings of the Udavi School.Over years with the efforts of Maggie(Nata’s wife) and Anuben from the Ashram as well as Guy of Auroshikha, the school was brought up to the level of Matriculation School in 1998.
The buildings in the Udavi campus can be divided into four sections. One is the kindergarten section which had three rooms with asbestos sheets and a cooking and dining area. As one goes along the campus towards the west, we come across the staff quarters, residential buildings which we are using for volunteers and our staff. After that comes the main high school building which is presently used from 7th to 10th grades. If one keeps going westwards, one comes across another beautiful building made out of mud blocks, designed by Poppo. This building has a long big pond in the courtyard open to the sky with a rock garden in the pond with lillies floating in it.
Around this building which we called the New Building, though it is more than 15-16 yrs old, are the foot ball grounds and a lot of other open land available.
Over the years, the following additions have been made to the physical infrastructure of the campus. The first step was to build a compound wall around the whole campus. This was done over a period of seven to eight years with slow infusions of donations that were raised. This is now complete. Some villagers still jump over the compound wall, yet the campus is relatively more secure than before. It is possible to grow things in the campus and not have goats and cows eating them up.
Since we took over in 1999 we have added the following buildings in the school campus.
1. In the Kindergarten section a building with 3 open halls – 2 halls for LKG and UKG and a central hall as a general purpose hall for the whole kindergarten.
2. Six rooms have been added to the staff quarters bringing the total number of available rooms for staff and visiting volunteers to fourteen.
3. We have added a first floor to what was earlier an office building. The first floor now houses the Odissi dance hall and the ground floor which was the office building is the Awareness through the body room.
Continuing westward we come to main school campus and there again all the rooms that were available have been joined together and a first floor has been created which has made possible large spaces where children can work more freely than in a class room situation. At present the large rooms are dedicated to the following activities:
A library, a Computer lab, a Tamil lab, a Maths lab, a French lab and a Social science laboratory.
Continuing westwards and moving towards the second gate of the campus, a big house has been built for staff at the entrance of the campus and after that a new building with two halls dedicated to a program called Play of Painting. In the play area, we have built two volley ball courts, two tennis courts, three badminton courts, one basket ball court, one running track.
One of the main efforts in improving Udavi School has been to make the school more child centered to ensure that learning is joyful and implies understanding of the subject matter and being creative with that subject matter. The traditional hierarchical systems in the school were abolished. We invited a number of volunteers from Auroville and today there are about 15 Aurovilians who work on a full time or a part- time basis in the school. We have been able to create an environment in the school where there is no fear of teachers in the children. There is a loving and respectful relationship between the teachers and the students and
the feeling that the school is meant to serve the needs of the students is evident to our students.
The principle challenge that we have encountered is to introduce the vision of Mother and Sri Aurobindo towards education in the frame work of the traditional school which is registered with the matriculation board and prepares its students for the standardized exam based on a fixed syllabus.
The temptation to de-register ourselves from the matriculation board and become a free school is very high at all times and yet we do not do that knowing full well that we are catering to the needs of the village population who will not able to comprehend the idea of a school that does not move towards the award of a certificate for secondary education. Hence we have accepted the limitations and work within that. One of the ways in which we work to overcome this limitation is by working 6 days a week. This way we manage to get more time to be able to offer to our students an array of activities like clay work, dance, drama, music, carpentry, tailoring and art work.
We also have time for a morning assembly at which we gather our energies collectively by meditation, and prayer. The morning Assembly is the forum for presentations by the students of their work in any subject. We have had in the morning assembly serialized story telling of the story of Ramayan, Mahabharat, life of Krishna, life of Jesus Christ, life of Saivite saints connected with the famous temples of Tamilnadu and singing of mantras in the morning assembly. Any other activity that we can introduce in a general way like celebration of birthdays is done in the morning assemblies.