Jawaja Project of Ravi Matthai
T. V. Rao
(a short version of this appeared in IIMA Alumnus)
Jawaja started as a project in Educational Innovations in Rajasthan and not a Rural Development Project. Eventually it got to be known as a Rural Development Project and Ravi (Matthai) did not object to it as the “Rural Development Group” at IIMA started taking interest in it four years after the project was initiated and they worked closely with Ravi. In my view it still is an Education project and it makes a lot of difference how you view it. I give below a little bit of history to put things in the right perspective before the memory is lost.
After Ravi stepped out as Director, he was interested in perusing professionalization of Management to Education sector. I was recruited to work in this sector. The Education Systems Unit was formed at IIMA in 1973 with Ravi Matthai, Udai Pareek and T. V. Rao as members and Udai Pareek as coordinator. Ravi and Udai had their own ideas of Professionalising management of education. I thought they meant to make education systems more relevant, innovative, define their goals properly and achieve them well with the involvement of all faculty and perhaps using the lessons from managing IIMA which by then was a great success story.
The team of the three of us deliberated for a few months about the work we should be doing in Education and identified the following priorities:
1. To work with a University and explore professionalising the Management of the University
2. To work with a college, a school or other educational institutions
3. To work with a state department of Education and initiate innovations.
For the Universities, we were asked by the then newly formed Gujarat Agricultural University (V. R. Mehta Vice Chancellor invited us) to help them to study their decision making systems and organizational structure and suggest mechanisms to make it more integrated. GAU was formed with merging of three campuses and each campus had a Director campus and there were many issues of integration. The work went on for nearly two years and some small experiments were done and this was followed by MPKV Agricultural University in Maharashtra. The MPKV project was done by Udai, Ravi, SP Agarwal and Ranjit Gupta. The details of our work in both the Universities are given in the book on Management Processes in Universities by Ravi Matthai, Udai Pareek and T. V. Rao (Oxford & IBH).
For colleges we did some work with St. Xavier’s college in preparing themselves for autonomy which they did not get until many years later and the project had to be dropped after some initial work. We also organised a program on Institution Building in Education and research attended by Kamla, Yash Pal, Alag, Nayudamma, Ishwar, Dharni Sinha and many others. The book is published by AIMA. We also started a program for Heads of Institutions on “Managing Change in Higher Education”. Ravi was also helping NCL, Pune and NID at this time. We did a self- renewal workshop for Sanawar School and also shared with the Indian Public Schools Association. Shomie Das actively promoted this work.
It was the third type of work that lead to Jawaja project years later. We were looking for people from any state government to invite us to undertake this work. The three of us were invited in 1974 to attend a meeting at the Asian Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (now known as NIEPA University, Ministry of HRD) a New Delhi sponsored by UNESCO. The same workshop was also being attended by Mrs. Chitra Naik then Director of Education in Maharashtra and Anil Bordia Joint Secretary Education, Ministry of Education, New Delhi. Ravi and Udai knew all these people and expressed their desire to work with a State department. We had a meeting with J. P. Naik, Anil Bordia, Chitra Naik and the three of us to discuss the plan of action. The meeting took place in Connaught place in Nirulla Restaurant over lunch as we had to go out from the seminar for the discussions. During the meeting Mrs. Naik offered Maharashtra as a place for our work. We did not know what exactly we wanted to do but merely said we like to assist in professionalising management through some innovations. It was during this lunch Anil Bordia offered that Rajasthan is a ripe place for our work . As there is already a “High Power Committee” in education with the Minister of Education as Chairman and they have already submitted a report of educational reforms in Rajasthan and there is a lot of scope for innovations in Rajasthan. He suggested that he can get the Government of Rajasthan to extend all support and if we can study it and help them implement it will meet our objective and the State department’s. J P Naik (member Secretary, ICSSR) offered to support it as a Research Project. The meeting ended with the agreement that the work will be done in Rajasthan and the task will be to help the government of Rajasthan to implement the High Power committee report and the project will be called as “educational Innovations in Rajasthan.” A steering Committee was also formed with Ravi, Udai, T. V. Rao, J. P. Naik, Chitra Naik, Anil Bordia, Inderjit Khanna (Director Education) at that time to keep meeting once in a while and review the progress.
A sum of Rupees 50,000 was sanctioned by ICSSR to the project “Educational Innovations in Rajasthan” to meet the travel and living expenses of the Education Systems Unit form IIMA with Ravi Matthai as the Project Director.
We all met again in Delhi first and again in Jaipur to begin the work. The High power committee identified many issues which are still issues: these included low school enrolment and high drop outs, poor enrolment of girls, location and up gradation of schools, teacher transfers and transfer policies, quality of teachers and teaching, supervision and guidance to schools by educational administrators etc. After studying the report we identified the school drop outs and quality of education as major area. The three of us chose the Ajmer and Jaipur districts of Rajasthan to understand the situation. We interviewed the top level Administrators and also visited many schools and villages. We concluded that the educational administrators had little time to guide the teachers as they are mostly busy in administration and particularly teacher transfers and appointments and rarely visited the schools to see what is happening. We also discovered that the schools are not seen as places of relevance and villagers questioned the kind of education given to the children. In fact they said that school education the way it was being given was responsible for the unemployment as their wards who went to school stopped working in the farms and also cannot get any jobs. We concluded that if school enrolment has to be improved as desired by the High Power committee the education and especially what is being taught has to be made more relevant.
We worked out a three pronged strategy to help high power committee recommendations implemented. First was to release the administrative burden of the Educational administrators by forming right policies and the use of Technology. Prof. T. P. Rama Rao and I worked on developing a computer model for teacher transfers and also for location of schools. The Dharampur Project experience came in handy for location of schools. The Minister of Education Rajasthan even visited IIMA to see the Dhrampur model and understand how teacher transfers through computes can ease the administrative burden. Of course the government may not have been convinced as perhaps using computerised (MIS) for teacher transfers is not desirable as it is losing control over teacher transfers. We in fact explained that every teacher transfer is accompanied by three to four unnecessary transfers due to limited and faulty MIS. This remained only as en experience and the reports are still available in IIMA of the two projects.
We were set out to turn and study three districts of Rajasthan but we got a clear picture after a tour of Ajmer district and Jaipur City. We did not even get to tour the other districts.
Ravi said that education has become irrelevant for the villagers. It has to be made more relevant and our work should be to demonstrate how to make education more relevant to people in rural areas. It is this issue that has led to a series of other questions. Ravi also felt that to make it relevant we have to identify local resources and create value addition in ways that the people can experience the same. It has to be done by and through the education department. We felt that this cannot be done by mere recommendations to the government as they already have plenty of them but through demonstration. We should demonstrate to them how to identify local resources, how to add value and how to make education linked to economic activity. Ajmer was chosen to demonstrate this. I still remember Ravi making a comment: We will demonstrate this in Ajmer District in six months and extend it to the remaining three districts in three years and leave it for the Government to extend it to the rest of the state. I was too young to have any views on this plan. It was an experience to work with Ravi and I used to hear him and watch with admiration what he is trying to do.
After touring round Ajmer district we chose the Jawaja block for the following reasons: it is backward and at the same time had some resources like agriculture (tomatoes used to be sold at Rs 2.5 a basket of some 5 to 10 kgs), sheep, tendu leaves etc. which were amenable for economic activity. Local occupations like weaving, leather work is on traditional methods and is amenable for modernisation. These and other details are documented in some of the case studies (See for example the case study on Educational Innovations for Rural development by T V Rao) and the book on “The Rural University” by Ravi Matthai. When we presented our ideas to the ICSSR Committee in the District Collector’s office in Ajmer (R. S. Kumat was the District Collector), the committee including Anil Bordia were not convinced but said that Ravi and team should go ahead and do whatever they felt right but this may not help the High power committee much. Ravi argued that there is no easy solution to implement the committee report unless the basic issues are settled. I think it is at this time the ICSSR committee started losing their interest except J. P. Naik who worked all his life on education issues. I remember JP visiting IIMA a few years later and my taking him out to Vishala for a dinner and having a long chat on these issues.
We were set out to use Jawaja as an experimental Block to demonstrate how education (primary and basic) can be made relevant to masses. We tried many experiments including forming farmers; cooperative in Agriculture Produce, Dairying, Beedi making with tendu leaves, teaching new weaving skills to a group of defunct weavers form cooperative society in Beawar Khas, and training a group of leather workers in leather processing suing modern methods and making new types of products etc. In all these experiments the Education Department including the teachers and Deputy Education Inspector of Schools from Beawar used to accompany us. Many workshops were conducted to motivate school teachers to participate in the economic activity mobilisation and curriculum development. For example a number of them participated in conducting night classes in villages for mobilising Farmers producing tomatoes to form a Society and sell their produce directly to City markets. Of all these, what stayed on was only skill building of a group of weavers and leather workers. These are the products which get even today exhibited by AAJ (Artisans alliance, Jawaja).
Ravi suffered a heart attack during one of the exhibitions of the Jawaja products in Mumbai. Subsequently the need for developing the marketing skills of the NID developed artisans to market their products, teaching them accounting, managing their accounts helping them take loans from banks, working out repayment schedules, etc. became main tasks. Both Udai and I dropped out from active involvement of the project and Tushar Moulik and Ranjit Gupta started participating actively in it and working with AAJ. Finally only Ranjit stayed and from NID it was Ashok Chatterjee who continued to involvement in Jawaja passionately.
I think Jawaja is experiment. It is an experience worth going over again and again to learn lessons. Years later Anil Bordia after retiring from Civil service started a project called Lok Jumbish trying to mass replicate some of the aspects of what Ravi Experimented.
I have personally learnt many lessons from this. Many may not know that Ravi was Chairman of SWRC Tilonia which was being managed by Bunker and Aruna Roy at that time. We visited them in 1975 and it is their continued effort and continued presence that has lead to the current status. Jawaja did not have any presence of its people in the place like Tilonia had Bunker and Aruna. It is because Jawaja was not an experiment in rural development but an experiment in Educational Innovations and solving educational issues by making education more relevant to masses using local resources. Recently even Inderjit Khanna tried out with the help of Mittal Foundation to do similar things with college students. I understand that it could not be extended the way it was planned. This is because we live in a complex world. We need to learn lot. Experiments should not be treated as successes or failures merely on the basis of some prejudged outcomes expected and the learning should in any case be not undermined.
Jawaja produced many people who learnt a lot from it and are helping others. Mehmood Khan, Brian Pinto, Subramnaim (MIDS), Arvind Khare, and several others associated with Jawaja have contributed in their own ways to the society from their earnings. NID continues to get involved in the same.
Perhaps if Ravi was set out to do rural development he would have done it definitely in a different way. He was struggling to give a new meaning to education for masses and for the poorest of the poor and make education more relevant through economic activity. He did not have much of an idea when he was set out what it means to make education more relevant to masses. For that matter even those like me who were born and brought up in rural areas and even the government does not have much of an idea of how to design and manage education to make it more relevant to masses and how to create economic activity at local level. There are only experiments and thoughts. If any government or any NGO or any agency had a workable solution to this issue they would have done it long ago. There are experiments and experiments and no comprehensive and quick solutions to this issue.
The concept of self-reliance was at the heart of the Jawaja experiment: education that could help those whose lives are directed by others to take greater charge and make choices, and then realize at least some of the choices they make --- and do this without even greater dependence on others. The article “The Rural University” written by Ravi at that time explains the education system he had in mind very succinctly. This article was circulated by many Vice Chancellors in those days to their entire faculty. The fact that there was no one based in Jawaja unlike Tilonia was deliberate, and the fact that the artisans managed for many years without IIMA and NID support is also significant --- self-reliance, genuinely. The fact that those Ravi chose to work with were at the very bottom of a highly discriminatory social structure is noteworthy. Jawaja experiment had a lot of influence on so many others --- The ‘bottom of the pyramid’ thinking is said to have begun with Jawaja. Vijay Mahajan was deeply influenced by Jawaja experiment in starting and managing Pradan. The project learning had a ripple effect beyond the IIMA family into so many institutions that have altered the course of development thinking in the country including Pradan, Utthan, NID and many others including the Crafts Council of India and so many others through the demonstration as well as ‘Jawaja alumni’. As Ashok Chatterjee former Director NID puts it “the impact on NID was profound, influencing the way design education has been structured ever since. Ravi’s involvement with NID is another whole story. It might not have existed today but for him, and his contribution is scarcely remembered beyond the Jawaja connection. In Jawaja, he gave NID a chance to test the relevance of design at the gut level of Indian poverty --- the single most important demonstration ever, to date. The demonstration came at a time of institutional crisis where the self-worth of an institution was at stake. And that of course was one of the intentions of The Rural University idea: to test the relevance of new disciplines emerging in the country and of young professionals from management and design to serve India’s most basic needs of livelihoods and dignity”.