Path to Alternatives | Swaraj University Live Human Signposts

The previous article in this series looked at the stories that each Live Human Signpost shared relating to their experiences with formal education growing up. Overall, the stories that were shared were of dissatisfaction and of developing unhealthy habits and perception. This led to depression, anxiety, confusion and disconnection. These negative experiences led each of them, in their own unique ways, onto the alternative path.

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Each of the people interviewed had unique journeys into alternative education. However, there were many similarities in how they ended up there. Arti expressed this similarity by describing that, “you need to do the first step to enter into this, and then it’s a loop, you keep getting linked to different ecosystems.” For Madhur, this first step was taking a ‘Gap Year’ after finishing his secondary school studies. He described, “Somewhere I read about Swaraj University. I visited there and I liked the space and I liked the people. I liked that the whole thing was new, it was a living experiment. … I joined Swaraj and then it just continued.”

For Arti the first step was taken when she left her hometown, went to University in a big city, and had the chance to explore the city. She found out about these opportunities through brochures that were posted on campus, and took the initiative to explore. She described that “while outside, I had real learning experience and I could myself connect with it. How do I see education, not how does Gandhi see education, which I’m reading about [in class]. … I used to skip a lot of my college [classes] … I didn’t like attending classroom lectures.” Through these explorations she connected to the wider world and more diverse groups of people, and was exposed to different, non-mainstream, ways of being. She was excited to learn that “these people exist in this world, wow!”

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Stanzin had a similar experience, after walking out of his secondary school, he attended a workshop called Re-thinking Development. At the workshop he met someone that was a khoji (seeker) at Swaraj University. Like Arti, he was opened to a whole new world of people and opportunities. He described the encounter:

“I used to think that it was only me that didn't like this normal schooling, because study and all those things, at that time, people thought it’s the only way. The only thing you should do in life. … But, then I met him and he said the same thing … he walked out after 12. ... then he explained about that space [Swaraj] … then I thought Wah, that’s the place that I’ve been waiting for”

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Gaurav’s first step after stepping away from his formal University studies was to visit another alternative space, Sadhana Forest. Similar to Arti, Madhur and Stanzin, Gaurav felt like he was in a whole new world after arriving at Sadhana Forest. He shared upon arriving at Sadhana Forest, “that was the time my mind started to open up, ok, these are things that are existing in the very same world that I was living in and I was not knowing about it.” and he expressed a sense of belonging that he had not experienced in his formal schooling. He described this as “People supported me. If you get support, if you get appreciated for what you are doing, you feel very positive. In college there were my friends, there were my teachers, but I never felt I was part of that system.” Similar to the first step that Arti described, Gaurav shared, “I was just looking for a very tiny poke that I could go in this direction, and I think that it was what happened at Sadhana Forest that catapulted me into that direction.”

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Similar to Stanzin and Arti, after taking the first step, Gaurav was looped into a much wider ecosystem. While at Sadhana Forest Gaurav was introduced to Shikshantar, and after visiting Shikshantar, to Swaraj University. These experiences catapulted him on his path. He described after taking the first step “I realized I was not going to look back.”

Find out more about the Live Human Signposts Project

Daniel Rudolph (initiator and author) is interested in exploring alternative, experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages. He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. He spends a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings. He also enjoys writing and sharing poetry. Dan is currently in an apprenticeship in Vermont at the MAPLE Monastic Academy.

Pia Janzen (illustrator) is excited to visually support projects that inspire us to question and reimagine how we as humans relate to each other and our surroundings. She loves painting people, making music, eating, oceans and being around animals and she is passionate about working towards a more sustainable, liberating and authentic way of being.

Sierra Allen (editor) is a recovering individualist, spiritual forager, storytelling apprentice, unschooler, rock climber, and youth advocate. Sierra is a co-creator of EDiT – Education in Transformation and audiovisual editor and weaver with the Ecoversities Alliance.

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