Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya: Baghpat sensitisation

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The district of Baghpat is some 50 kms from the National Capital. It might have figured in my head some years ago – perhaps in a geography lesson, or a forgotten news piece about sugarcane cultivation. Till Swati and Svetlana (Directors, IDIA), through their meticulous efforts, got in touch with one Anup (an alumnus of JNV Baghpat[1], a Young India Fellow, and a founding member of the JNV Alumni Network) and arranged for a team visit on the 5th of February, 2019.

It’s incredibly important to truly believe in something before you profess it. Otherwise, you just end up being an unethical salesperson. The sometimes hard to distinguish line between selling an idea and convincing/conversing with someone becomes all the more relevant here. You step into someone’s body and look at the world through their eyes. And let them step into yours, make them see how the world looks through yours. Sensitivity is, after all, core to the process of sensitisation.

I leave home early, wait for the National Law University, Delhi folks (Siddharth, Meghna and Ashima) to come meet me at the metro station. They arrive. We’re on our way. The conversation in the rented-for-the-day car is a lull in the beginning – but as we head further north of the noisy, pollution-blurred capital into somewhat clearer air, the conversation gathers pace – plans for sensitisation, university politics, the goings-on of life!

A group of 5 people are standing in front of a board saying 'Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya' in Hindi.

 

We reach the school.

After the initial awkwardness of finding myself in a new place, I decide to walk around a bit. Talk to the students. Get a first impression. End up in a room full of class 12 students. All boys. They tell me about some counselling session about sex-education that happened the previous day.

We’re here to talk about law! – I say. I am the alien who isn’t in a uniform.

We’ve some doubts about yesterday’s sex ed class- they say.

I find an opening. Sex and the law. Talk about consent, talk about dignity, talk about processes of the law. And how law pervades every, even the most intimate, aspects of our lives. Law-like Prana! All around, yet only meaningfully experienced and understood with a calm mind!

Move on to reservations and rights. We break for lunch.

Girl students sitting on chairs with desks in front of them. There are papers on the table.

Students gather in the courtyard an hour or so later (a little over 70 in number). Full to the brim with energy. Never mind missing a post-lunch siesta. All set up- standees and all. We talk. Talk about Gandhi, Ambedkar, Patel – and, of course, Nehru! Explain social engineering to school students- Help them navigate away from the generally (and, perhaps, unfairly) tarnished image of law as a career. Tell them – When you have a law degree, you negotiate with the police, with bureaucracy, with your political representative with confidence.

Tell them about the idea of IDIA. The message of legal empowerment. Siddharth gives them an insight into the CLAT and AILET exam. Conscientiously explains to them what the papers contain. Meghna tells them what it is like to be in a law school – question everything! Never take anything at face value. Ashima talks about what law as a career in today’s time is, what the future may hold for a law student.

Some express an interest in sitting for the civil service exam. Some lean towards a job in the judiciary or towards practice. Some indifferent. Our folks tell them about the transformative potential of law. Answer questions.

Three people are standing and talking to a group of students. There is a flag in the background.

Time for a practice test. Given the distance of NLU Delhi from Baghpat, it was decided that a practice test and the IDIA National Aptitude Test (INAT) would be conducted on the same day.

Students take the practice test. Siddharth magnificently explains the solutions to all the practice test questions. Wrap up.

Invite Class 11 and 12 students to sit for INAT (35 students took the test).

Meghna chats with the younger students, they take her around to see the mess, the hostels and everything. Siddharth, Ashima and I stand guard. An intense one and half hour. Dusk falls. Papers start coming in.

We wrap it up. Exchange farewells after a day well spent. Conviction must trump cynicism and the comfortable numbness of everyday existence. Ideas also start taking shape. You tap into the energy of students and you’re on your way to building something good. Law gives a structure to efforts. You teach them to think, you teach them to build.

Students sitting on the ground and writing in a paper.

[1] JNVs are fully residential and co-educational schools affiliated to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi, with classes from VI to XII standard. JNVs are specifically tasked with finding talented children in rural areas of India and providing them with an education equivalent to the best residential school system, without regard to their families’ socio-economic condition.

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