A Good Practice from India

After delivering a much praised lecture at a conference in Lithuania (GIFTED CHILDREN: CHALLENGES AND POSSIBILITIES, Kaunas 22-24 October 2015) Narayan Desai and his wife and colleague Devasena paid a short visit to Budapest to study the Hungarian model of talent development and the forming European Network. During their visit they informed the interested Hungarian partners on their several year long work in identifying and developing gifted children and youngsters living in tribal circumstances in India.

Narayan Desai graduated as an ecologist and he has a doctorate in the restoration of ecology plus another one in Vedic and Puranic literature. His wife Devasena Desai has a PhD in parent training and is a consultant Psychologist for tribal Mensa.

The program’s name is Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program (TMNP) and it is a practical implementation of an ancient Indian human development model for the nurturing of the gifted. It was exclusively developed for the underprivileged gifted children from tribal, rural and urban settings. The word tribal refers to the origins of the program that was first developed for kids coming from tribal communities and only later was extended for other underprivileged children.

The philosophy of Tribal Mensa is to make the gifted tribal children aware of their own high levels of intelligence and its potential uses, nurture the intelligence these children possess and foster in them a positive attitude towards societal problem solving, which in turn would lead to self-fulfilment as well as service/contribution to the country.

The long term mission of the program is to extend its activities to the whole county with the aim that every gifted child in India is identified and empowered for the building of the nation. In their philosophy the gifted i.e. privileged children will remain underprivileged if nobody reaches out for them.

TMNP offers simple solutions for everyone aiming to reach out to all gifted kids empowering them to give back their knowledge and experience to the society to benefit all.

The idea of talent development by Tribal Mensa is based on the Indian philosophy of Panchakosha – the five sheaths of the human beings.

While in the European philosophy originated from the ancient Greece and western thinking based on that have never accepted anything beyond object as tangible: here is the object, I can see it, I can touch it, therefore it is. However in the Indian way of thinking in yoga and Vedanta object and consciousness are interrelated, body, mind and spirit are interconnected, interrelated and interpenetrating. Each body has a dimension and layers. In Vedanta they are known as koshas i.e. sheaths. These koshas are five in number: annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya, and are further sub-divisions of the three bodies, which represent the three states of your daily experience.

The first kosha is annamaya kosha, the physical body. In modern science it is said that all the time, the whole day and night, atomic energy is bouncing in and out from this physical body like a pendulum. Of course, you cannot see it, but scientifically it has been seen that just like a pendulum swings from left to right, left to right, in the same manner everybody is emitting or throwing away these atoms.

The second kosha is pranamaya kosha, the kosha composed of prana, or life force. This prana is a part of cosmic life. Each and every creature, each and every thing in this world is a part of cosmic life. Prana is the force or energy for all kinds of motion. Prana is a Sanskrit word meaning movement, motion or vibration. Pranic energy is in constant motion throughout life. It is not only in human beings, animals, herbs or trees, not only in oceans and mountains, minerals and bacteria.

The third kosha is manomaya kosha, the kosha composed of the mind. Mind is consciousness. It is a field of energy by itself. Even as prana is the positive field of energy, mind is the negative field of energy. In Sanskrit, the mind is known as manas, and has three dimensions. In fact, in Samkhya philosophy, they say that the mind has ten dimensions. Here they mean the mind of everyone, not only of human beings but of lower animals, the vegetable kingdom, the mind of each and everything in this world.

The fourth kosha is vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means psyche. Vijnana is a Sanskrit word from the prefix vi and jnana meaning knowledge or awareness, inner perception or experience. Vijnana has two meanings: external science and also inner experience. Therefore, whenever you have any experience which is subjective in nature, it is a consequence of vijnanamaya kosha. Whatever you are dreaming is a projection of vijnanamaya kosha, and in your meditation, concentration or mantra yoga, when you see lights and flowers, figures, angels or saints, smell perfumes or hear sounds, it is the consequence or result of vijnanamaya kosha.

Vijnanamaya kosha is related to a very unknown part of the universe and it is a link between the conscious mind, the individual mind and the universal mind.

The fifth organism is anandamaya kosha. It is not possible to translate the word ananda. Some translate it as bliss or happiness, but ananda is when there is no happiness and no unhappiness. In happiness you are jumping, in unhappiness you are dull – sometimes low, sometimes high. So your mind is swinging. In ananda there is no swinging. There is unified experience and that experience does not change. Death cannot change that experience; birth cannot change it; love and hatred cannot make your experiences swing. When your mind has become steady in experience and does not fluctuate under any condition, that is ananda. So we call it homogenous experience. The experience which you have in your life every day is not homogenous. It is divided and that is why swamis have ananda in their name, to remind them that they must achieve the state of mind where there is no swinging. So, anandamaya kosha means the kosha which comprises homogenous experience.

In the program TMNP has seven stages:

  • induct
  • identification
  • nurturing
  • support
  • nourishing
  • niche
  • share

The core of the system is the nurturing stage that consists of

  • giftedness orientation
  • giftedness exploring
  • giftedness  enrichment
  • giftedness encompass
  • giftedness enhancement
  • giftedness experience
  • giftedness endue

The TMNP consists of four main areas i.e. a Resource Management Program comprising an ecological knowledge program in which the so called Sacred Grove Project was conducted in 2007-2012, a Green Teacher Program comprising a tribal teacher training program involving 21 teachers in 2009-2012, a so called Tribal Mensa Ashramshala that created the Nishta Tribal nurturing centre and a Nourishing Program which refers to a naturalistic intelligence program establishing a support system to the Tribal Mensa.

Tribal Mensa conducts intelligence tests in different regions of pune in maharashtra  in order to select the students to be nurtured. Usually the ones who achieve more than 95 percentile  are eligible to take part in the program.

An impressive recent example:

In the month of Sept 2015, Tribal Mensa has conducted Intelligence test at Udyog Dham (Leprosy Rehabilitation Centre) Talegaon. More than 40 students participated in the test. These students parents are affected by Leprosy and Udyog Dham bring these students from their home, provide education, accommodation, food and value education.

In 40 students, two students scored more than 98 percentile score i.e. selected as Mensan and two students scored 95 to 97 percentile score.

Several local and international partners support the whole or different parts of the program, e.g.  the Integrated Tribal Development Project, the Ghodegaon, the Sevadham Trust, the  Disha Foundation & Kher Foundation, the Belin Blank Center for Gifted Education (USA), the Berlin Technical University, and the University of Greifswald (Germany), the University of Avignon (France), the Landlife Trust (UK) and others.

To achieve their impressive and socially important goals TMNP needs support not only in the form of funding but as moral support to make the program known to the world, to introduce their program, goals and projects so establishing more trust in the Indian society.

The Tribal Mensa Nurturing program has three phases:

  1. Identification of Tribal Mensans
  2. Nurturing the Tribal Giftedness
  3. Nourishing the Giftedness

The aim of the project was the increasing of effectiveness in teacher teaching methods in the Tribal Schools with the following objectives:

  1. To introduce and practice facilitation skills.
  2. To build teacher- student participation.
  3. To utilize existing resources creatively.

The 2002-2003 first tribal teacher training project was a real success story. 13 teachers participated in the 6 month long weekend course. pre and post training teaching assessments were done, and a scientific study was published on the psychology, teaching methods of the teachers and the changes of the school environment. The courses based on a value addition approach comprised also personal counselling. As a result a tribal teacher training module was developed.

The main deliverables of the training program:

  • Tribal Teacher Training Facilities
  • Tribal Teacher Training Modules
  • Training to 120 Tribal Teachers of 4 centres

A case study analysed a tribal school sacred grove restoration project. 370 students (215 boys and 155 girls took part from 1st to 9th class. The organizers provided free basic amenities to the participants: food, clothing and shelter. The land needed for the school was donated by the local villagers. Ten resident teachers and administrators controlled the project. This sort of projects exploit the common knowledge of the community, the desire to create of the children and the expertise of the trained teachers.

The kids restored a degraded sacred grove that used to be an integral part of the village and an important place for the local community. In the work in addition to the human resource ancient tribal knowledge was used.

As a result of the Budapest visit Cssilla Fuszek the Director of the European Talent Centre - Budapest has agreed to take responsibility as Tribal Mensa International Advisory Board.

More details: www.tribalmensa.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mensaindiapune

Talent is a special kind of natural resource that is available in every country.