Kabir in the Schools (in alliance with Eklavya)

Project Brief: Pilot project on using the singing and discussion of Kabir poetry to promote tolerance and nonsectarianism
Project Type: Educational Experiments (description)
Primary Focus: other (description)

Secondary Focus: other

Area: Rural
Supporting Chapter Contact: Berkeley
Status: completed - requirements ended
Project Steward: Sapan Agarwal
Project Partner(s): Arvind Sardana
Other Contacts: Linda Hess
Project Address: , ,,,
Stewarding Chapter: Berkeley
Feb 2010BerkeleyUSD 1000
Jul 2008BerkeleyUSD 1000

Total = $2000

In both his social and spiritual teachings, Kabir inspires questioning and independent thinking. He criticizes social inequality, casteism, and what today we call communalism, narrow-minded sectarian pride, competition, hatred, and violence. He makes fun of hypocrisy and delusion that arise from egoism. He encourages compassion, simple human fellow-feeling. In the spiritual realm, he wants people to seek out the truth for themselves, to find their own experience, and not to rely on authority figures and external practices.

In short, there is much to discuss about Kabir that is interesting and important for children as well as adults. In addition, music makes it fun and full of life. Dohas (couplets) of Kabir are common in school syllabi all over India, but they rarely come to life. They are just another thing to cram for exams. Narayanji and Kaluram, as well as other Kabir-singing friends, have tried singing Kabir with school children; the students showed a very lively interest. They wanted to learn to sing the songs, and they had many questions. So we are confident that the combination of singing and discussion will work for children, with development of appropriate formats and materials.

We will develop teaching materials and methods, including posters, art projects, and an illustrated book for widespread use in schools. There may be plays, essays, observation of social realities related to Kabir’s poetry, students learning to sing and play instruments, older students leading and teaching younger ones.

The coordinators will develop a general plan on how activities will develop and change from meetings 1 to 5. The first contact will be a performance, while subsequent meetins will incorporate discussion, teaching students to sing, art projects, essays, dramas, etc. At the end perhaps there will be a student performance, art exhibit, etc.

This is a pilot project, after which we will assess the effectiveness of what we have done, and how (if at all) the project should continue.
•To develop innovative and creative ways to teach a great and popular Hindi poet who is in the school syllabus.

•To inspire discussions that are valuable and important for young people today, including shedding light on relations between personal and public, religion and society.

•To use music, art, poetry, drama, and encounter with different kinds of teacher figures to enliven the whole learning process.
Eklayva is a highly respected educational NGO that goes back to the 1970s, and that adopted the name Eklavya in 1982. It is based in Madhya Pradesh (though it has also worked in other states), with main offices in Hoshangabad, Dewas, and Bhopal. Eklavya has done wide-ranging, highly respected and influential work in education, including development of curricula, methods, textbooks, tools, and teacher training.

Between 1991 and 1998 Eklavya ran a program called the “Kabir bhajan evam vichar manch”—which might translate to “A Forum for Kabir Singing and Discussion.” During those eight years they hosted monthly bhajan-singing and discussion sessions that eventually involved hundreds of Kabir bhajan mandalis (music groups) in several districts of the cultural region known as Malwa. In a project supported by the Indian Council for Historical Research, the documented and compiled a large collection of Kabir bhajans as sung in Malwa. They carried out many other activities as well.