Digantar, in Kho-Nagorian, about 20 kms. from Jaipur, Rajasthan was started with 7 children by Ramesh Thanvi and Rohit Dhankar in 1978. Today, Digantar has 3 branches in the villages of Todi, Ratwadi and Bandhyali and provides a learning space for about 500 village children. For the first ten years Digantar was a small school, privately funded by a local family. The in-house teacher training programmes provided sufficient numbers of motivated teachers to enable the team set up additional schools.
Children are initially taught in their mother tongue - Dhundhari – a local language, similar to Hindi. Gradually, in about 2 years, the medium of instruction switches to Hindi. The guiding principles of these schools are: learning with understanding, learning to learn and freedom to have one’s own pace of learning. Children learn in groups of varied ages, with the older children guiding the younger ones. A student on obtaining the required degree of skill/competence/training simply moves towards more advanced topics/areas by making such a request to the teacher.
Since the child is part of the village community, the teachers dialogue on curriculum content and teaching methods with the members of the community, who also actively participate in decisions relating to the schools.
The day begins by a collective session of cleaning and arranging the classrooms by teachers and pupils. This is followed by a general assembly where singing and playing together take place. Thereafter there are classes. Hindi, Math, EVS and functional English are taught.
English is taught initially with oral exercises only. Reading and writing in English is taught only when children can read and write in Hindi, so that there is no pressure to learn two scripts simultaneously. A lot of time is spent working on craft and artisan skills
Several near by schools use Digantar’s books, training packages and teaching methods. Digantar has trained teachers for the Lok Jumbish programme conducted by the Education Department of the Madhya Pradesh Governement under its District Primary Education programme. Vimarsh, a quarterly magazine is published by Digantar