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Jeevanshalas – creating a world of their own for teaching the tribal child

In a spectacular achievement, the documentary, ‘jeevanshalas: schools of life’ by Mansi Pingle, won the joint first prize at the ‘stories of possible worlds’ competition held in rome, which saw participation of films from all corners of the world. Divya Sekhar caught up with mansi pingle on this achievement and what makes her make a film on a subject rarely touched upon in this era of glamour and commercialization.

The India that we see today is a land full of irony. While on one hand we boast of glorious developments, on the other, many citizens, often referred to as “the poor” barely manage a hand-to mouth existence. While on one hand, we boast of achievements on the global front, on the other, many children their basic right of education. Such ironical symbols of development indeed! With ‘jeevanshalas: schools of life’, comes a hard-hitting fact of the deprivation and also the immense gallantry of the tribes of the narmada valley, which acts as an eye-opener to the intentionally ignorant Indian society. We caught up with the director mansi pingle on her film.

The said film bagged the joint first prize in the ‘video narrations’ category along with a brazilian film at the ‘stories of possible worlds competition’ by the popular university of rome and the popular university of social movements. ‘Jeevanshalas’ denote the schools that have been established by namrata nav nirman abhiyan – a registered trust of the ‘narmada bachao andolan’. They say, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. In the same vein, the film talks about the fight of the tribes of the valley against the grave injustices meted out to them by the government; albeit in a non-violent manner, with education as their weapon. Through jeevanshalas, the people wish to provide their children with the strength of education, a right they were eternally deprived of. With their motto being ‘ladhai padhai saath saath’ meaning, we study and struggle together, the inhabitants, along with the activists, constantly strive to arm the next generation to fight for the realization of their human and democratic rights, even as the government incessantly shows a red light to their efforts.

The film very effectively portrays the unending endeavors of the people of the valley, who have chosen to light a candle of hope and courage, than to curse the darkness of discrimination and prejudice. Perhaps it is this spirit that keeps them going in sickness and in health, through darkness and light and even across the tests of nature and providence. At a time when film making has become a completely commercialized venture, we asked mansi pingle what made her select this theme of education for adivasi kids. At a time when all government initiatives to take education to the tribal hamlets across the country are failing, it is necessary that commendable efforts like jeevanshalas are encouraged so that it can act as a catalyst to unleash the potentials of these children, thus creating proficient citizens. For now good news for those behind jeevanshalas fighting against the corrupt system is that, despite no support from government, these schools that were just 2 in number way back in 1992, they have now matured to 14, with around 1700 students and 5000 pass-outs in mp, Maharashtra and gujarat, with clearly indicates silver linings amid clouds of grey. With cameraperson vinayak dalvi, divya.j.shekhar for NMTV News.

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