We arrived at Alice Project School in Sarnath near Varanasi on Tuesday afternoon and stayed over for the night. We had a fantastic welcome by Sudakar and the 26 resident children.
Some of these children were from a Himalyan tribe known as Monpa and the others were Chakmas, aged between 4 and 18, refugees from Arunachal Pradesh. The partition of India in 1947 was the main cause of the present suffering and problems of Chakma people. Being Buddhist, they wanted to merge with India at the time of partition but their homeland, Chittagong Hill Tracts – now in Bangladesh – was ceded to theocratic Pakistan against their will. That day marks the beginning of their struggle for life and survival. The Chakmas became the victims of persecution, religious fanaticism and repression.
At school, they follow the standard curriculum such as Hindi, English, Math, History, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Sanskrit, etc… And they also incorporate meditation, yoga and massage, philosophy, art, ecology, dharma, etc… They start their day with a puja (spiritual celebration) at 5AM and have breakfast at 6AM which they cook on their own. They are fully autonomous. Then they have school from 8 until 2PM. Each period starts with 5-10 minutes of concentration exercises.
There were almost 900 children from local villages during the day.
This is the place where two Italian teachers, Luigina de Biasi and Valentino Giacomin, have created a new method called Alice Project which is an inter-cultural and inter-religious school, founded in 1994.
Alice Project derives its name from the famous book by Lewis Carrol: “Alice in Wonderland” and like Alice, the school invites children to enter the magic land of our unconscious mind, exploring the inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions and to cross the borders between our inner and outer realities. In this way they will hopefully be able to understand and cope better with the challenges and contradictions of our everyday world.
The Alice Project proposes a path of consciousness and self-consciousness developing awareness and encouraging a dis identification between the self and its functions. (I am not my thoughts, I am not my feelings……… I am something beyond.)
The philosophy in all our teaching is based on the understanding that our perception of the external world originates in the mind, and so it is that our mind constructs our transient reality depending on many interweaving influences.
Here are some concepts taught in the Alice Project:
• the laws of interdependence;
• the laws of cause and effect;
• the subjectivity of perceptions and dynamic of projections;
• the relativity of boundaries;
• the ever changing nature of our thoughts and feelings.
Written by Marie Saint-Arnoult, co-founder