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Jagriti Yatra Day 3: Education in Hubli

Ice cold water poured out of a small bucket woke me up this morning in a juugad shower stall created between plastic covered seats. I had thought myself clever for having woken up before the 6 o’clock alarm for a shower. With five bucket shower stalls for almost 200 girls who hadn’t showered in two days, it seemed prudent. Unfortunately for me, 25 girls had thought the same thing even earlier in the dark train and there was a large line when I arrived. I had just escaped the icey claws of my bucket shower when the fire drill began. Still soaked from the unpleasant morning ablutions, clothed yet barely conscious, I staggered from the car to a beautiful sight: Hubli. We had breakfast along the side of the tracks as small children from the nearby village gawked and played at and with us. The seven cups of chai I consumed and the breathtaking sunrise saved me from the morning chill. After breakfast we loaded onto the bus and made our way to the Kalari campus. An oasis in the woods, Kalari is a residential music school for children as young as 1st standard and as old as high school. There we heard from three speakers: Sachin Desai from School Without Walls, Vishnuteerth from Educational Initiatives and Adam from Kalkeri. The School Without Walls is an alternative school that Desai runs here in Karnataka. There are no teachers, no curriculum and no grades. Rather, students learn through doing, learn about local issues that affect them and choose their own courses. He gave the example of one of his students who, after experimenting in the kitchen “laboratory” discovered a new red hibiscus syrup useful to cure a variety of ailments. After a lovely lunch with the Kalkeri students and a nice walk around the campus, we returned to hear Vishnu talk about his work with Education Initiatives. The company aims to assess children’s gaps in comprehension through innovative tests in order to best address those gaps. Finally, Adam explained the history of the Kalkeri music school. Children study a minimum of three hours of classical music, theater or dance a day. As they grow older they chose two specialties, and after grade 8 they chose only one. Volunteers come from all over the world to live on the campus and contribute to the community. The day was as inspiring as it was long. It ended with an analysis of the presentations by the Yatris back on the train. Life on the train has begun to feel a bit more like home as people fall into a routine, begin to make friends, begin to acclimatize to the chug-a-chug-a-chug of the never ending rails that continue to take us on our journey.