If we tell you there is a real S.H.I.T. (from the movie Accepted) or a F.A.L.T.U university that exists in India, would you think of joining it? What if we also tell you that there is no curriculum, no professors and no exams in this University, instead a group of self-learners and their mentors, engaged in learning through self-discovery, would you give it a try?
Khojis – The real learners
Learners at Swaraj University are called Khojis, i.e., seekers. Coming from various socio-economic backgrounds and from places across the country, these khojis stay at the University for a 2 yrs program. This program is partially structured and partially co created. Since the first group of khojis which joined the university in 2010, a total of 93 self-designed learners have been part of the movement. Nearly 250 mentors and supporters from various parts of the worlds have supported the movement.
Most of the khojis have given feedbacks that the kind of acceptance they have felt at the university is far better than the outside world.
The ideology-Freedom to learn
The formal education system has been framed to churn out individuals who think and act the same. Swaraj University was formed and is operated against the principle of structured and formal education. They believe in Sawaraj (freedom) to learn what an individual likes. All humans are different and so should be their learning.
The founders also believe that there is no need of a stamp or an approval to call the place an University. University is centre for learning & research and Swaraj University also focuses on learning but in a self-discovered manner.
The khojis are motivated to unlearn and then self-design their processes of learning which they then follow. The motive is to move them out of their comfort zones, build deeper perspectives and regenerate themselves.
The 2 year program for each batch is co-created which gives them the flexibility to choose their own path. It focusses on building skills like critical thinking, questioning the status quo, self-awareness, bodily awareness, effective communication etc. The previous batches have explored various fields like eco-architecture, sustainable living, farming, theatre, design, technology, healing among many others.
Skills like event management, goal setting, project planning, handling diverse perspectives, listening and self-evaluation also form an important part of the program structure.
Meet the founders of Swaraj university
Four dreamers who always believed in a democratic learning space came together to set up the University. After Reva Dandage saw her friends commit suicide over failure in exams, her belief shifted from the formal setup of education to a democratic learning system. Manish Jain while working with UNESCO in Paris realized that mainstream education was destroying traditional methods of learning worked on a project called ‘Learning Without Frontiers’ to explore new models of learning for the 21st century. His daughter who is 13 yrs old has never been to school. Nitin an activist from Nasik has always been experimenting with unlearning and also supported his daughter to study at Swaraj University. He along with Manish was running a fellowship program called Berkana institute for self-driven adults. Deborah, the fourth founder from USA was also associated with the Berkana Institute.
Swaraj University doesn’t offer any degrees, certificate or diploma to its Khojis. Neither is it accredited by any organization. What it offers is recommendation letters to them from the mentors. The university supports these learners to communicate and network with a wide number of individuals and organizations to offer them projects and internships. Alumni from the university have set up their enterprises to support socially and economically backward groups of people. Many of these learners have gone on to take up documentary making, training, theatre and associations with non for profit organizations as their full time initiatives to work on their heart’s calling.
We leave you with a video from one of the co-founders, Reva, talking about the university. The university also offers various workshops for people who can’t join them full time as Khojis. Do let us know if you would want to join the university in your comments.