Sr. Susan Varghese R,A
The Religious of the Assumption (Province of India)
Creativity of creator and its creation creates wonder in the minds of one who is attuned to the transforming nature of the universe and its creation. The Lord God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat (Gen. 2:9). The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and take care of it (Gen. 2:15). From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made (Romans 1: 20). The Earth and the Sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, teach of us more than we can ever learn from books. More over St. Marie Eugenie invites us to see the world as a place of glory for God.
Transformative education necessarily has a community and collective dimension. It relies on ecological relationships and beneficial inter dependence, lived as a sharing of wealth.
Around the world, research is showing that climate change, ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss are a threat to the very survival of humanity and most other species on earth (United Nations environmental programme (UNEP), 2007).
When we turn the pages of Indian educational system we find Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian educationalist and environmentalist insisted that education should be imparted in natural surroundings. He said, “Children have their active subconscious mind which like a tree has the power to gather its food from the surrounding atmosphere”. He also said that an educational institution should not be “a dead cage in which living minds are fed with food that’s artificially prepared”. He also lays emphasis on the learner’s contact with nature. Apart from physical activity, nature teaches a man more than any institution. Tagore recommended that education should be provided in the company of Nature which will strengthen the ties between man and Nature. Both man and Nature are the creations of one and the same God. Favouring ancient Gurukul system of education, Tagore recommends ancient system of education in which teachers and pupils should live together as family members keeping sweet relationship among them.
Blended with Indian Gurukula education and pedagogy of Assumption education the sisters of Indian province started Dnyanjyoti Kanya Ashram school (It is a residential school Only for Tribal girls) at Tilloli in 1996 with a mission and vision of St. Marie Eugenie. inspired by Saint Marie Eugenie, we impart quality education – academic excellence, character formation, and social and ecological responsibility – to young girls so that they might be confident and competent to face the challenges of our times and to become agents of transformation.
The school is situated in the midst of tribal villages. It is a tribal belt with agricultural back ground. When our sisters started social work at Dindori in Nashik district, Maharashtra, the people of the place were very close to the nature and proficient in agricultural work but they were not aware of the importance of education especially of girls. They were under the pretext that their girls were only for taking care of the daily chores of the house and their siblings. That was an excruciating experience for our sisters. So, they decided to have a bridge between informal transformative education to formal Assumption transformative education. The light Mother Marie Eugenie lit in the hearts of her daughters aflame with courage to take risk and reach out to the people who were at the periphery. So, we started a residential school for the tribal girls to fulfil the mission and vision of Mother Marie Eugenie in the Indian context.
It is an exuberant countryside with small hills and a small dam with the back ground of lush green vegetation. Here students are taught according to the Maharashtra government curriculum. We apply the educational pedagogy of Assumption within it. Students are promoted to have academic excellence, along with the capacity to have team work and have empathizing heart for all the living beings. They do yoga in the morning. Soon after the yoga, they go to the garden (flower, vegetable, fruit garden) for half an hour. This is the time they take care of the plants and in many other ways they are in touch with the environment. Each group of students is accompanied by a sister. They learn to keep the surrounding clean hand in hand. Here curricular and co-curricular activities go side by side. We took seriously the safe guarding of nature in June 2018. We planted varieties of fruit plants and forest trees in our school compound. Sisters, students and non- teaching staff take care of the habitat. Most of the trees started producing fruits. The varieties of forest trees we planted growing fast and it attracts so many birds and butterflies in our compound. Same year we designed and planted so many flower plants. It doesn’t allow the visitors to take away their eyes from the flowers. They remark, this atmosphere vibrates lots of positive energy. The people visited our place fascinated by the scenic beauty of it. These all brought transformation in the character and behaviour pattern of the students, parents and staff. The fighting nature of some of the parents, students
and staff is changed. They become more loving and lovable. The teaching- learning atmosphere of the school is changed slowly and steadily. Now lot of positive vibration is everywhere. Our place is an example of how the nature can contribute to the transformative education and to make the human being a better socially committed human being with a humane heart.
It is time to take nature seriously as a resource for learning and development. It is time to bring nature and nature - based pedagogy into formal education. When the young people are connected to nature, it has positive impact on their education, health- emotional & physical well-being and personal and social responsibilities. It helps them to build a society where justice, peace and integrity of creation reigns. Transformative education connected with nature connects the students with creation and creator with a thread of sincere love. It ignites the minds of the students and take them to the infinite opportunities of life.