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LEC looks back and forward

The Life Education Centre (LEC) started in 1991 with a group of boys and girls, all of whom were school drop-outs in their very early years and who learned a variety of hard and soft skills to prepare them for life. Over the 15 intervening years, it has come to focus on only girls, often with (almost) school leaving certificates, who want to gain some vocational skills for their futures. Recently, two reflective exercises added depth to their collective experience: one was a visit to a village where nine students from the original batch now live, as married householders, and another was the annual day function when present students reflected on what they had learned, where they could improve, and what they intend for next year.

 

The visit to Morattandi
turned out to be emotionally intense as well as edifying. The nine “alumnae” (including 2 boys) were surprisingly candid and frank in talking with a group of unknown new/current students, confessing to major marital and economic problems, and remembering with tears and laughter their relatively carefree days at LEC. (Actually their lives had never been carefree, as a glance through the booklet “Life Histories” compiled from interviews in l995 will show.) When the old students asked the young ones if they were having the same fun and enjoyment, the new ones replied that they do enjoy themselves, but they are under much more pressure to master tailoring, typing, computer, crochet and knitting as vocational skills besides English and Mathematics as functional skills, and chanting, group discussions and counselling to help in their self-growth. Life Education Centre has clearly grown, as all living things do, become more full, more mature, more responsible, focussing now as much on the therapeutic side as the vocational side of preparation for life. Now many girls who have not acquired their school leaving certificates wish to get them and some also attend typewriting exams conducted by the Government. The very qualified students get special fashion design classes.

The round of self reflection at the yearly Evaluation Day found the visit to Morattandi mentioned as one of the highlights, but it was only one of many interesting things the LEC students had done this year:

  • They had visited temples and looked into the deeper meaning of the gods worshipped there. Most temples have a local “purana”, the particular myth relative to the presiding deity. These puranas have a poignant meaning in the present day, because they generally feature a mad “asura”, a powerful egoistic demon who is threatening the balance of life with his greed and violence. The humans voice the cry of the earth and appeal to the “devas” (gods or qualities of faith, courage, wisdom...), and together they manage to outwit and overcome the demon.
  • They also were immensely impressed when they visited the Aravind Eye Hospital, which is an amazing model of cleanliness, state-of-the-art technology, caring service, and financially organised so that the paying patients subsidise free cataract operations for the poorest villagers. Once this initial contact and link to the Hospital were established, students wanted to continue to go there for referral purposes as advised by the doctors.
  • They had participated with the opening chant in the inauguration of the new Thamarai Cultural Centre in nearby Edayanchavadi village. They had excelled in their performance at a one-day workshop on Mother, Sri Aurobindo and Auroville, and had attended the Darshan Day functions as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
  • But mostly they were appreciating how their German intern had made mathematics fun, and how they had passed their qualifying exams, learned crochet, tailoring and embroidery, become conversant in English and how they want to go on to learn more. Again and again, gaining confidence and patience were mentioned as the major learnings of the year. They said they will go on to improve their skills, to face their problems with courage and confidence and to take good care of their families.

Meeting with Parents

The three women who head up LEC called a meeting with student's parents, and all but two parents showed up. As all they knew till then was about LEC as a tailoring school, they will filled in about the other Life Skills classes, and about how LEC depends on donations and volunteers from other countries. The parents expressed appreciation for the positive changes they'd noticed in their daughters, and were very happy to hear of the advanced trainings and qualifying exams they were now ready to take.

 

Transition Phase

Looking back leads to looking forward, and LEC finds this self-reflection has highlighted its transition to a new level. Today's students are ready, after two years of life-skills and basic vocational skill training, for a one-and-a-half year professional training which will bring their tailoring skills up to an international level. Towards implementing this new curriculum called the “Transition Phase”, LEC is connecting with Auroville production units which will make orders and also send their skilled tailors to train the girls in the new models and the new standards. They will not only improve their individual skills, but develop the ability to work as a team for joint work orders. Important related skills, such as accounting, costing, packaging, labelling and marketing, will prepare them for setting up their own units in the village, or even in gaining employment in Auroville or outside.

 

One professional fashion designer from Auroville has already agreed, and begun already giving special classes to the senior students, and the Government of India is funding a new workspace. Only equipment is needed -- three electric sewing machines, and a UPS. The team at LEC feel fully confident that these will come, as they have been successfully carrying out this programme for the last 15 years with the help of volunteers and donations, and have developed in themselves, as they develop in their students, a bright confidence in life supporting them in their good intentions, and plenty of patience in the process.

If you would like to participate in Life Education Centre,

  • You can wish us well and share your ideas
  • You can come as a volunteer to coach the girls in skills like fashion and design and computers
  • You can become a financial contributor, helping us to expand or to cover running expenses.
  • Contact harini@auroville.org.in , or zerina@auroville.org.in

 

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