Harshavardhan V Sheelavant, June 16, 2015: 22:43 IST
Kalakeri – a sleepy little village on the foothills of the Western Ghats is woken up every day by mellifluous chantings of vachanas accompanied by enchanting melodies played on the sitar, violin, flute, harmonium and tabla by young and talented children.
Music enthusiasts Mathieu Fortier of Canada and Agathe Meurisse-Fortier of France who came to Dharwad to learn Hindustani music, dreamt of taking it to the less privileged, and founded Kalakeri Sangeet Vidyalaya (KSV) in 2002. KSV is inspired by the gurukul system of learning. The musical meditation is an evidence for vibrations which one can experience in this remote picturesque hamlet, 18 km away from Dharwad, the cradle of Hindustani classical music and performing arts. This school has offered opportunities for the children of Kalakeri and surrounding villages to create a better future for themselves, breaking the cycle of poverty.
Units of these gurukul are built mostly of locally available materials and look like an extension of the nearby village. Students here practise music, dance and drama for four to six hours a day in addition to academic pursuits. Veteran vocalists and instrumentalists from Dharwad and other parts of the state train these kids and extend active support to the initiative. The school has performed at important cultural events of the state and enthralled the audience.
To each, their own
“Our primary aim is to have a truly child-centred education that caters to different and varied learning styles that are pillared with children’s interests, allowing every child to learn at his/her own pace. The school aims at working smart towards simple living, focused on sensible usage of available resources,” says Adam Woodward, social entrepreneur and director of KSV. “This gurukul lays special emphasis on performing arts. Morning hours are meant only for learning arts while academics begin post noon,”
explains Veeranna Pattar, administrator and drama teacher at the school. KSV has about 250 students and follows Kannada medium State syllabus for general academics from classes one to 10. In addition to the annual internal exams, students appear for the Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board and Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Exams. The school is being run on generous donations by well-wishers and care takers. The state government provides textbooks. A dedicated team of 15 academicians, 15 performing artistes, 17 wardens, seven administrators and 19 labourers along with 30 volunteers are working round the clock to ensure better future for these children.
Also, scholarly students from various other countries come to volunteer at KSV. Since its inception, around 2,000 volunteers have served in different capacities at KSV. They have trained these children to master their skill sets through vocational training like wood carving, carpentry, tailoring and painting. Normally, when a child comes to a school it is presumed that he/she knows alphabets and numbers. But the first generation learners are at a gross disadvantage. The older generation is not keen about the performance of their children, owing to the lack of awareness.
Despite such harsh realities, students are achieving success both academically and in the field of music. Once they complete SSLC, KSV supports them to do higher studies also. Some alumni of KSV have taken up higher education, and some have even come back to the school to teach. “Students becoming teachers in the same school where they learnt is a positive development,” feels Suddharm Basapur, principal of the school.
Kamala, 38, a single mother of six children, is the school’s cook. Two of her kids passed the class 10 exams last year. “I want them to continue their studies and find good jobs. This could not have been possible without support from KSV,” she says.The school is also recognised for integrating energy efficient and environmentally sustainable practices. The campus is gradually switching over to solar electricity, decreasing the dependency on grid power.
As Adam Woodward succinctly puts it, “At KSV, the main values underlining the entire ethos are justice, non-violence, equality, cooperation, critical thinking and respect for people and one’s environment. By adopting all these values in all that we do, our team believes that our students will be well prepared to be responsible citizens. They are a source of inspiration wherever they go and live.”