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Prasad Alagunti: Impact of schooling on my life and work: Neelbagh

Presentation Abstract

At the outset, I’d like to share about my experience at Neel Bagh when I visited it after 3 decades. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I left in mid 1980s. Thanks to the values and principles I imbibed at Neel Bagh which remain intact with me to this day, I was able to position myself well in a career of social action (NGO field) that I consciously chose.
When I was a student at Neel Bagh I was aware that I was in a school with a difference which had no grades or tests for students as in other schools at that time. When I left school (not college) I was 21 and I was the senior most among 30 students on roll. The youngest of my schoolmates was about 6. During my 5 year stay at Neel Bagh I studied and played with students who were either older to me or younger. There was no strict sense of any peer age group at Neel Bagh. This taught me many lessons which helped me later in life.
Each student learnt at his or her own pace in Neel Bagh. Students were taught in the most natural and endearing ways how to read and write. Once this was achieved we were then taught how to learn on our own. The sky was the limit for me. I learned many things that were in the “syllabus” and many more things that were outside the syllabus. I learnt carpentry, pottery, needlework and journalism apart from my “prescribed” subjects: Literature, History and Political Science.
A striking feature I found in Neel Bagh was the unconditional love that we received from teachers. This was expressed by the confidence they showed in each child, perceiving him or her as an agent of social change. We had regular “Question Hours” where we debated on contemporary issues, traditional mores, philosophy, science and technology. We learnt to think for ourselves. We understood the connections between personal experience and larger social and political structures. We left school with a vision in mind and a mission on hand!