Conversations for Change – Shefali Moitra

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Shefali Moitra taught at Jadavpur University from 1979 to 2008 in the capacity of Professor of Philosophy J.U., Director School of Women’s Studies J.U. and Coordinator Centre for Counselling Services and Studies in Self-Development J.U.

Shefali Moitra opened the discussion with summarizing points discussed in the previous meet and her views on the same.
After a brief introduction of all the speakers she laid down her observations in precise and brief points:-

(1) Many mainstream teachers do not take up the course on Peace Works and leave it to the S.U.P.W. or Moral Science teachers. Observing this as a ‘marginalization’ of sorts, she regretted the same.
(2) Though she agreed that the first session was extremely descriptive, she was keen on making this one a little more provocative so as to stir up the calm and silent waters.
(3) One of her concerns was to bring up confrontational issues
through Peace Works and address the same. Therefore, a proper framework would have to be made in order for the same to be carried out. This was later re-iterated by Ms. Kavita Punjabi
(4) An absence of schools like Saifee Hall disturbed her and she really wanted to ensure that in order to have continuity in the Peace Works program, this must be addressed.
(5) She wanted to know whether school authorities discouraged controversial issues being raised in classrooms.
At the onset itself, it must be stated that most of these points weren’t addressed further but several other issues were raised during the course of the meet.
Ms. Neelam Munshi stated that a lot depended on the personality of the teacher but this was not accepted by Mrs. Uma Ahmed who insisted that though the personality of the
teacher was important in making the students comfortable while discussing confrontational issues, however a focused and organized program was the need of the hour.
Her main point was to ensure that children are exposed to the Peace Works program from junior classes itself so that they grow up learning how to ‘think with an open mind which would be able to stir social change’.
Ms Punjabi felt that children do not have the sense of enquiry because quite often the issue of ‘conflict’ is not addressed; e.g. how often does a student exposed to domestic violence at home, discuss it in the class room.
A few points that Shefali Moitro closed the session with:
(a) Consistent teachers should come to the workshops since only then would there be continuity.
(b) Thereafter, region-wise problems could be addressed.
(c) Teachers of one school could then go and address students of other schools.
The teachers’ meet did not seem to be completely productive since many pertinent questions that the chief speaker raised were left unanswered. However, the meet did help raise a unanimous feeling that a proper structure would be required in order to make further progress.

Conversations for Change
Shefali Moitro – 1 August, 2009
Report – Sharmila Nair