Urmila Samson stays in Pune and is one of the most distinguished homeshooling mothers in India. She, with her husband John, have radical ideas about learning and have opted to un-school their three children aged 19 years, 15 years and 12 years, who have never been to school. Her current favourite definition of education is engaging with everything – living and non-living. Urmila has always been connected with people to guide them on right information and resources, with a burning desire to change the current scenario of the education system. Presented below is the transcript of Urmila Samson’s talk at the Swashikshan launch event after she officially launched the association.
Beloved Swashiksharthies, this is a proud moment for me and all of us who are together of this movement in India. It is more than just home schooling, unschooling or non-formal education. It is a movement away from a system that no longer serves us, taking full responsibility for our own and our children’s learning journeys.
Pioneers move on uncharted territory, there are many unforeseen difficulties and some well-considered ones as well. The launch of Swashikshan as a national body brings us all together, and is an important step towards helping us support each other, share information, learning and resources. We each have special gifts that we can share through Swashikshan, so please do not look for leadership in others, and let us set an example for our children in taking initiative and responsibility in shaping this community according to our real needs, rather than the perceived needs according to some distant decision makers. Just as we have walked out of the school system to forge our own learning paths, so should we create new kinds of self-organizing systems as happen in the natural world.
Whereas this is not a time to separate ourselves with religious, national, state or cultural divisions, it is important to remember that we are Indians, and there are many special things about being Indian that we can bring to the world community.
The most important thing is our immense diversity, and our ability to tolerate and absorb this diversity. Swashikshan or self-learning helps us protect, renew and deepen this diversity. As Swashiksharthies we do not have to succumb to rules and regulations, curricula and standardization. We can cook the food our grandmothers cooked because there is no rush to make a dry dabba for school lunch. We can wear clothes that are comfortable and allow free movement as there is no need of a uniform to confine our bodies. We can be barefoot all day, receiving all that is to be received from the earth through our feet. We can stay quiet in one place or roam where our hearts take us to discover all that Learning has to offer. We do not have to listen to what others think is important or good for us and our future. We can discover and experience everything for ourselves first hand. This personal freedom can help us move from merely tolerating and preserving diversity, to celebrating it! Preservation of diversity in our ways of being helps preserve bio diversity as will be clear from my next point.
Deep experience of the earth
India is also home to many indigenous tribes, communities and sub communities. They have not yet been conditioned by modern education and are still in touch with much traditional knowledge and wisdom. Much of the knowledge and wisdom has to do with their direct experience of nature and their reverence of Mother Earth. Hardly a week passes by without some Swashiksharthi telling me some new story about what they learned from a so-called uneducated person, including about medicinal plants from little children. These little children living in remote places are the original Swashiksharthies. It is their way of learning that we have much to learn from. Recently I was keen on finding out about non-invasive dental healing, and within the week I received information of the same both from India and the US, from unschoolers, who I am terming Swashiksharthies or self-learners. All the information I need has been coming to me like this, before I even ask. This is because I have been what I am beginning to call a Whole Being Learner – A learner who is using more than just mental faculties for learning. As you open your being to learning, you will find that you have many more faculties than you ever learned about in school. Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner speak of these, but it is better to not even read them, but rather open yourself to directly experience all the learning that is yours. (This could lead you to reading for further learning, but reading should not necessarily be the starting point.) This leads me to the third important contribution that India can make to world learning.
Our deep spiritual traditions
All ancient cultures including ours have much to contribute to the world, of the wisdom of ancient seers and sages. There is much wisdom that is in our very DNA. Through our languages and culture we can regain our connection with that which is deep within us. We have been torn away from it for two to four centuries, and it is time for us to go in search of that deep connection again, also through direct experience and practice. (Books provide backup information and knowledge, but should not be given too much weightage.)
Jobs and careers may serve some people. But there is much work to be done in this world, and it is mostly outside the job market and more a calling than a career. This Work gives people a chance to understand life better, sustain life better, and is best done alone or in small interdependent groups who share a similar vision. Each of these visionary groups or as in a recent video I saw, solutionary people and groups will be giving themselves and the world so much, that jobs and careers pale by comparison. It is my dream that Swashiksharthies will show the way to educationists in India and worldwide, authentic human beings who are true to themselves and their calling, thus creating a vibrant way of living on Mother Earth.
You are the courageous people who have sought to personally care for your children, against the very strong pressure to send them to school. Let us not waste more time and energy than necessary on formalities, worries for the future and issues with the government. Let us instead be inspired from the very core of our beings to live a life of meaning, and set our children free to do the same.