BIS #6907 Looking Beyond the School

By Ms Gracian DeSouza for BISMumbai

Under the able guidance and leadership of the Principal, Fr Anthony Fonseca,150 students of Class 9 of Don Bosco High School, Naigaon, ventured for a social awareness and educational tour to Bosco Samajik Vikas Sanstha, Walvanda, on 24 February 2023. 

Walvanda, located in the Jawhar tehsil of Thane district, is home to the Warli tribe. Fr Anaclete D'Mello, the Executive Director, welcomed the teachers and the children and spoke to them about the social development programme, co-ordinated by the institution. He mentioned that there are around 60 staff members who work in the remote villages mitigating the problems and finding innovative solutions for social change through community partnership for holistic development.

Mr Prakash Wagh ,Project Co-ordinator for Isabel Martin Foundation(Spain), provided the students with valuable insights into the lifestyle, issues and challenges faced by the tribal people in that area. He further explained about the belief of the local people in nature and its forces, population, gender equality, and especially the scarcity of water, and how the institution is addressing these challenges. 

During the morning session the students were taken to the Zilla Parishad Centre School, where they learnt that the school has a total of 75 students from Classes 1 to 8 with just three teachers. The students have to walk to school due to the lack of transportation and hilly terrain; thus, facing many difficulties and challenges. The tribal children greeted the students with a warm welcome and their traditional Tarpa dance and the Gauri dance. The students were quick to pick up the dance moves and eagerly entwined their hands and moved in a circle around the tarpa players. 

The students learned the traditions and culture of the Warli tribe through their art. They conversed with the locals thus learning about their lifestyle and survival skills. They curiously inquired about the challenges faced by the villagers in the aspect of getting quality education. They enjoyed eating the local food. 

Post lunch the students were taken to visit the check dams in the Umber Vangan village. They learnt that the farmers experience acute scarcity of water for agricultural and domestic use. The water from these dams is used for the second crop cultivation i.e. Mogra, a flower (Arabian Jasmine). The villagers pluck the flowers and transport it to Dadar market in Mumbai, which is at a distance of 126 kms. This occupation serves as a major source of income for the villagers. The check dams were built to conserve water and solve water scarcity issues. Many such dams are built by the Don Bosco Institution at Walvanda.

“We have always seen a check dam as images in our textbook. This was the very first time we saw a check dam and learnt about the usefulness of it and how it helped the villagers and farmers during the scarcity of water,” said Heneel Atara, a student.

“We saw that the villagers built their houses with limited but natural resources. It is important to note that the villagers were very generous in giving us drinking water even though they had very little of it. I saw the villagers very happy with the simplicity of life they live,” said Samira Fernandes, a student.

Fr Joaquim Fernandes, the Vice-Principal said, “Our children are accustomed to going to the water parks for their picnic. This year, we decided to take our children to a village for a practical learning experience, which reinforces social awareness and ultimately leads our children to a social transformation.”

The tour was an eye opener for the teachers as well as students and made them realise as well as value the conveniences they enjoy. It also awakened in them a feeling of solidarity towards their fellow brothers and sisters of Walvanda.