IHEU has made a strong start to its campaign against popular superstition with the launch on 27 August 2007 of a unique Science Education Program in India.
The project is managed by two IHEU member organisations, the Social Development Foundation (SDF) and the Indian Radical Humanist Association (IRHA), and has been fully funded by IHEU in the amount of 6,000 Euros. The Science Education Program will engage the services of a full time resource person, deliver anti-superstition activist training in several parts of India and also adopt five villages and five village schools in remote areas of Nalgonda, one of the most backward districts of Andhra Pradesh state. At a conservative estimate, the project will have a direct and long-term impact on 500 school-going children and 7,500 adults.
Teachers from Vemulapally High School offer full support
Nalgonda district was chosen for the school program because of stories of human sacrifice and frequent reports of witch killings from this district which neighbours Hyderabad, one of India’s important IT hubs. Here, travelling exhibitions with models and charts which could be used in public outreach programs will be created and distributed to other NGOs and schools in the neighbourhood. Children and their parents will be given education and information on hygiene, nutrition and health to improve the lives of those who are victims of dangerous superstition. Teachers will be offered teacher training.
“We are very happy that Mr. Chandraiah, a well-known maths populariser and anti-superstition activist, has joined this two-year program as a full-time resource person. I am also pleased that during my meetings with them, all the headmasters and teachers have enthusiastically welcomed the project. It is very encouraging that the visionary headmasters have seen that this is more than a school education project; indeed, it is a program of social reform with schools as an entry point into the community to spread human values”, said Babu Gogineni, IHEU’s International Director, when launching the program in the five different schools where he held meetings with the headmasters and teachers inviting their support and participation.
Headmaster of Ravulapenta High School and his team welcome the initiative
Chandraiah is the resource person; Prof. Narendra Nayak, President of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, and National-Level Master Trainer of the National Network of Science Technology and Communication is a volunteer advisor.
Chandraiah has been recently involved in anti-superstition activities in schools in the Chirala and Inkolle area of Andhra Pradesh, thanks to privately raised funds.
Now, with IHEU’s support, his activist talents and energy will be available for the movement full-time for the next two years. One day a week, he will teach in classes 6, 7, 8 and 9 of each school (ages 11-14) as per an agreed schedule and syllabus. Four of the schools are High Schools and one is a primary school, all run by the government, and attracting pupils from the poorest of the poor families.
No proper roof, but a good foundation in science at the privately-run Rahul school in Chirala
A mixture of song, dance and magic tricks will be used to expose children to the fun and delights of science and maths. during classes they will be challenged to think for themselves, and will be exposed to Humanist ideas, and encouraged to examine their tradition and values. As Humanist ideas reach them at a young and impressionable age, they are likely to have long-term impact and even transform the atmosphere in the rural setting where the project will be implemented.
Chandraiah will be attached to the schools during the school working days and during the rest of the time he will be engaged in miracle-exposure programs in the villages adopted and in neighboring villages. He will also travel to Humanist groups in the region to help in their work.
Chandraiah teaches songs to children at Laxmidevi Gudem Primary School (adopted by the IHEU-funded project) on the first day.
On weekends, cultural events and informal activities will be organized in the villages with local participation: the children will perform in the cultural activities so that the parents also develop a stake in these activities.
Training Activists and Scaling up
SDF and IRHA will also invite Chandraiah and Prof. Nayak to different parts of the country (Hyderabad, Chirala and Madanepalle in Andhra Pradesh; Kushinagar, Gazipur and New Delhi in North India; Godhra, Ahmedabad and Mehmadabad in Gujarat and Bangalore and Mangalore in Karnataka) to impart training to rationalist activists in exposing miracle claims.
Learning can be fun, children at Satya Sai High School in Chirala find out!
There is a crying need for such programs to be replicated all over Asia and Africa, and IHEU will work with the implementing organizations and other partners to document the activities, collate the teaching material, and using that as a base, and with the help of the rationalist activists who will have been trained, aim to enlarge the area of work and the number of schools involved.