This book, a short story translated from Sinhala to English, comes as the first offering of KHOJ in the area of conflict education. For five years now, we have been working assiduously, garnering research through direct classroom interventions and intensive workshops with members of the teaching community. This exercise which has culminated in the development of 45 modules for intervention at the middle school level that we feel, is path–breaking in content and approach to both learning and teaching. Developing an alternative to the kind of history, social studies and literature taught in our schools has been the prime focus of the research undertaken through the KHOJ experiment. However, the exploration has taken us into the wider area of the education system as a whole sustained as it is by unimaginative textbooks and a dry teachers’ training course. In the course of this year we plan to publish all our research findings.
Exploring the narrow mindsets that have contributed to the deterioration of history teaching from a potentially dynamic discipline to a vehicle for propagating sectarian worldviews, while retaining our focus on conflict resolution, led us in August 1996 to widen the KHOJ experiment giving it a wider South Asian dimension. Aman, an olive branch of the KHOJ project, was born, initially facilitating exchange of letters between the children of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. The South Asian dimension has enabled us to
enrich our own vision on the teaching and learning of history within the region, especially since the countries located here have constructed communal histories and have also been engaged in mutually antagonistic relationships despite a shared past.
For the past three years now, we have had the privilege of interacting with Sri Lankan groups in the area of teaching without prejudice, exchanging ideas and sharing the modules devised by us. In September 1997, on a visit to Sri Lanka, I was fortunate in meeting Sydney Marcus Dias, a teacher who resigned from a secure job to work in the strife–torn region of the northeastern part of the island. His results with experiments in interactive teaching in both Sinhala and Tamil schools are testimony to what genuine commitment combined with clarity of vision can achieve. When he read bits of his Sinhala novel out to me, I immediately felt it should be available in English to readers in other South Asian countries. Sri Lanka, the picture–book ‘Emerald Isle’ of the tourist brochures faced with a raging 15–year–old civil war, presents real life evidence of what the politics of hate-mongering can unleash. India today stands on the threshold, the democratic, secular option being seriously eroded by a sharp growth in communal mobilisation and resultant violence. Can we learn from the bitter lessons of our neighbours, avoid deeper divisions and the continual charting of narrower and narrower boundaries? Do we have the collective will to do so?
— Teesta Setalvad
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