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KSC Students, Professors Explore Education in India

KSC Students, Professors Explore Education in India
KSC Students, Professors Explore Education in India

Last summer Linda Baker and Steve Clark (Psychology) traveled to Bangalore India to visit Bapagrama, a school run by Janaki Natarajan Tschannerl (Education and Sociology).

The Bapagrama Educational Center was established in 1949 by Janaki’s mother, Saraswathi Natarajan, a progressive educator and activist, who was an advocate for the Dalit class in India. Named after Thakkar Bapa, a co-worker of Gandhi, the school was established to serve impoverished people in the nearby villages.

The school is free, and for most of the 300 students who walk to it from nearby villages it offers the only opportunity to study beyond primary school. The school’s curriculum integrates literacy, agriculture, science, technology, mathematics, sustainable development, community organizing, arts, and social sciences. Bapagrama has also become a center for community organizing and leadership training.

For many years Bapagrama has hosted visitors who come to participate in the educational activities and contribute to the community. This summer Baker and Clark joined seven KSC graduate and undergraduate students at Bapagrama: Liz Winter, Melissa LaPlante, Kat Kimball, Cat Harris, Jesse Miller, Kim Petersen, and Tim Cullity.

Janaki supervises the Keene State students who come to work on projects for credit, but she also helps all the KSC visitors acclimate to living in India, and plans structured activities and educational trips. Both Baker and Clark say that some of the most powerful educational moments of their visit were experiential: discussions during meals shared by the entire community, learning to prepare Indian meals in the kitchen.

“Spending three weeks in this community changed me and is changing my teaching in ways that are still unfolding,” says Baker. Clark returned with a new calling: he is studying Kannada, the local language, and plans to return to the school next year.

Photo: Steve Clark
Sculptures at a cultural center near Bapagrama, where impoverished students can visit and learn art, music, and theater.

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