Jyotiba Desai: An Interview with an Educationist on the Essence of Freedom

“In the 1950s, Jyotibhai worked as an educator in the Gandhian institute called ‘Lok Bharathi’ established for rural development and education in the Sanosara village in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. It was in the 1960s that he was invited by Jugatram Dave to join him in starting the Teacher’s Training Centre in the Gandhi Vidyapeeth in Vedchchi. Jugatram was the founding director of the Teacher’s Training Centre in the Gandhi Vidyapeeth. Jyotibhai was determined to bring to fruition Gandhi’s philosophical teachings in practice and was involved in this work with utmost diligence. In 1957, he completed his Masters in Education from the London University, and proceeded to complete an International Course in Education from Oxford University in 1975. He worked with the Gujarat State Secondary School Education Board from 1975-1982 and was a member in the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) from 1990 to 1994. He made important contributions and served in various key positions such as the President of Sevagram ‘Nai Taleem’ Samiti, the member of the Administrative Council of Sevagram Ashram, the member of the Kasturba Education Committee based in Indore, the member of the Administrative body of the Gandhi Vidyapeeth. He is a staunch critic of the current education system which is based solely on capital gain.”

This interview by A K Shiburaj was published by Counter Currents on 07/01/2023

The story of Jyotibhai Desai must be amplified by the work of other thinkers and doers in the field of education: actually, of the joy of lifelong learning.

Kishore Bharti, nurtured for half a century by the vision of Prof Anil Sadgopal, continues this vision, that Gandhiji termed Nai Talim, and that echoes as Asli Talim.

Whatever name or title is used, the idea of holistic learning, amplified as learning through playing and doing, has been repurposed by the practical vision of Arvind Gupta, and in a remarkably effective manner, one that is based on learning by doing, and being free of ‘prescribed’ scientific (actually, only certified for classrooms as tools by a formal Education System that mostly fails to recognise either learning or innovating: the latter is actively discouraged, sadly) gadgetry, the CUBE initiative. Both are ways and means in current use, across India.

It is unfortunate that education is increasingly seen as a process of acquiring certification, learning being secondary. It is possible that the commercial wrappers of school (and college, and no less universities and scientific establishments) privatisation are the result of this trend, but also possible that the wrappers are in fact the major drivers cementing this result, somewhat akin to a manhole cover over a sewer.

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Inspiration for children to learn fearlessly and for all of us to learn with and from each other is exemplified in the work of Puvidham Learning Centre. At the core of Puvidham’s philosophy is respect for each other and the earth. The Marudam Farm School is another effort at education which “at heart is a common living and learning space, shared by students, teachers, and the wider community.” And there are many more such efforts working towards joyful, lifelong learning with and for all beings.