SIDH's journey

In 1989, SIDH began as a response to the community needs of Jaunpur block in Tehri Garhwal in Central Himalayas. People wanted schools and we began schools in remote villages. After sometime, parents began to complain about the problems created by the current system of education – namely alienation from their land, village, family, culture and rural lifestyle including farming, a livelihood which was their only form of sustenance.

This was a serious matter because it destroyed a lifestyle essential for their very survival. Parents also complained about the arrogance of their school going children towards their non-literate siblings/elders; about a reluctance to work with their hands because they felt that everything rural was backward.

It was clear that the current system of education was responsible for creating a false sense of superiority. Parents also spoke of how the literate child lacked integrity of character, as a non-literate mother told us, “बच्चों को होना सिखाओ, दिखना नहीं !” (“teach them how to be, and not how to appear to be”).

This was a turning point in SIDH’s journey.

Thereafter, we began to investigate the aims of education and began to see the links between education, lifestyle and happiness. At this point we abandoned mainstream educational practices and began to experiment with more alternative models of learning. We were encouraged to find that the community critique of the modern education system matched the concerns voiced many years ago by Mahatma Gandhi. This further strengthened our faith in the innate wisdom of the local community.

However, things have changed today. The aspirations of the same community have completely altered. The parents of today belong to a younger generation. Influenced by the market and the media, these young parents are the new community representatives; filled with contemporary desires and in a tremendous hurry to realize their aspirations of fully adapting to the modern way of life.

But SIDH has not changed. Perhaps its convictions have been further reinforced. We are certain that going forward we need to make a serious attempt to probe, understand and engage in a dialogue with the younger members of the community around us, with the hope that they will at least listen to what their parents had taught us and maybe even accept or respect it one day. In this way, we will only be returning the wisdom learnt from the community.

So we find ourselves once again at another turning point – or perhaps not. We may have only come full circle.

10 Important Milestones



Balwadis are pre-schools for children between two and a half years and six years of age. Besides providing child-care support for working mothers, Balwadis were platforms to motivate the girl-child into continuing her schooling; and were crucial for disseminating information and raising awareness regarding nutrition, food and health amongst mothers and children.