Published: 08th April 2018
This Kodugu school is located in the lap of greenery and they teach their students how to protect it
Do you find yourself interested in both Environment and Education? Check out E-base Kodagu and find out what this one-year fellowship entails
Titimati Ashram School in Kodagu, better known as Coorg, Karnataka, is situated in the lap of greenery — the Western Ghats — and is surrounded by lush forests and scenic coffee plantations. So, it makes sense then that this residential government school was Charulata Somal and Aarati Rao's pick to set up an E-Base, the fifth of its kind in the world. The duo is simply carrying forward the legacy of Robert Swan (whose introduction starts with him being the first man to walk on both the North and South Pole, being the United Nations’ Environmental Programme Goodwill Ambassador and one who stops at nothing!), who started the concept of E-Base.
Robert Swan established the first E-Base in Antarctica by clearing 1,500 tons of waste from its shores. He wanted it to be an example of how it could be an education base that others can borrow from
These spaces focus on environmental education and awareness. "It's like an open franchise model; you need to take the idea and scale it up," explains Rao, a student of Harvard Business School, who helped set up an E-Base in Leh before this. The duo then decided to set up an E-Base at Kodagu in 2016. In 2017, they started a fellowship where people could apply and work for six months, and now in 2018, they have decided to extend that to a one-year fellowship. Well, that escalated quickly!
Best friends: Students at Titimati Ashram School in Kodagu
And of course, it was bound to. Rao, who studied at Malla Reddy Engineering College, Hyderabad, soon realised that more consistency was required for the fellowship to really reach its potential. "The academic year starts after the summer break, then we break during December and finally close in March. There is barely any time to see the impact," says Rao, explaining the reason behind the extension of their fellowship.
When it comes to the fellowship itself, it encompasses two different tasks. On the one hand, it is all about classroom learning and not just engaging students but teaching them how to apply the concepts they have learnt. On the other hand, it is about ideas. These innovative ideas need to work beyond classrooms and address the social issues of the area to make it a better living space. The fellows need to fare well in both areas and in Rao's words, "Just hustle!"
Circle of life: Students putting up a performance
The school itself (except vacation time, of course) bustles with the energy of the 250 tribal children (from classes I to X) who study here. So, if you have a proven record of working with kids or at least in the education sector, you are sure to have an edge on the other applicants. And of course, having an understanding of pedagogies and a love for the environment wouldn't hurt either. Four lucky fellows will be chosen for this opportunity to help make a difference and put their ideas to the test. But Rao says that the gates of the school are open even if you are a professional in other fields, say photography or robotics, and would like to conduct workshops or even volunteer here.
So after regular classes, three classrooms are allocated to this environmental awakening with some of the curriculum being borrowed from World Wide Fund For Nature India, Karnataka. "Think of it as an after-school programme," Rao simplifies. The focus this year is to expand, not in terms of quantity but in quality, “which is one more reason we are looking for passionate people with a vision and want E-Base Kodagu to be a sandbox where they build their ideas," explains the 27-year-old.
The language could be a problem as the tribal children speak a different dialect from Kannada, but it is not insurmountable as English is the language of instruction
Land of opportunities
The fragile environment makes it a biodiversity hotspot whereas commercialisation and man-animal conflicts make it a place where old tribal practices are disintegrating. "And when we say disintegration, we mean that of holistic ecological practices that have been followed by tribes for a very long time," says Rao, who is currently doing her Master's in International Education Policy. And the movement of people towards urban ideas, spaces and livelihoods isn’t helping matters. This is where opportunities lie for the fellows. Not only do they get a chance to understand grassroots-level challenges, but also other challenges like development, education and more. "We need the fellows to be culturally sensitive and cognizant of the existing norms," establishes Rao and in-turn the fellows will be given all the guidance they require.
Innovation is another muscle that the fellows need to extensively exercise in conducting sessions and procuring resources. They have support from the government coming in; in the first year of their functioning they had a year-marked budget. And if they want to expand, Rao says they will have to figure out ways to raise funds. This year, they are hoping to really go beyond the environmental focus and strengthen literacy numbers as well.
Rush hour: Students of Titimati Ashram School
So, mark your calendars as the deadline for applying for the fellowship is April 30, 2018, while the fellowship begins in June 2018 and ends in March 2019. The e-forms are available on their Facebook page. We suggest that you get cracking with these forms because they mean serious business. After all, working to make children environmentally conscious is serious business.
For more, check out their Facebook page: facebook.com/EbaseKodagu/