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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 10, september 1-15, 2010
A break for heritage
(By The Editor)

G.O. brings Heritage Clubs into schools

Madras Week witnessed several schools, from Tambaram to Avadi to Tiruvottriyur, getting involved in exploring the heritage of the city. This journal was also delighted to hear during the Week that the Education Department of the State Government had issued orders to all schools in the State to set up Heritage Clubs.

The School Education Minister has stated that, with such Clubs, children “would take more interest in their neighbourhood and also list the various places of interest and map them in their school neighbourhood. The concept of preservation would be stressed. This would help them become aware of the need to protect the ancient heritage and its many symbols.” This is a most welcome development.

Heritage Clubs in schools are, of course, not new in Chennai. The Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) pioneered the idea in Delhi and its Chennai Chapter got around 30 schools to sign up. Of these, around 20 or so clubs are still alive and holding regular events. Efforts are continuing to get more schools sign up.

INTACH–Chennai also brought out the path-breaking publication, Celebrating Chennai, which was a first-of-its-kind Heritage Activity book. Circulated among schoolchildren, it was a bi-lingual work with the text by Padma Swaminathan, Indu Narayanan and Dr. Prema Kasturi. Divided into various sections focussed on historic buildings, the environment, educational and other institutions, arts and prominent personalities, it was not merely a read but required the student to write down his/her impressions. INTACH-Chennai has also been conducting several events for schools during Madras Week. These include activities such as quiz contests, debates, heritage walks and projects such as the documentation of history of schools and their immediate environs. For the first time this year, INTACH’s Chennai Chapter in its Madras Week activities involved schools from Madurai, Thanjavur and Coimbatore. These are examples that the Government would do well to emulate.

While the Government’s recent announcement may give the heritage movement a boost and also sow the seeds of realisation of heritage importance in the young, the INTACH experience has shown that such efforts yield mixed results. Much depends on the teachers and, above all, the heads of the institutions. If the faculty and the principal are enthused by heritage, the school sees a lot of activity. If not, there is practically no encouragement to the students.

INTACH regularly sends out information on events for schools, but very few choose to respond. Academics and conventional extracurricular activities get preference. The Government ought to study what steps need to be taken to keep the concept of heritage clubs alive in schools, failing which they may remain on paper, to be given a paragraph in the school’s annual report. It may be best for Government to insist on an annual project whose report would need to be filed and, more importantly, evaluated.

The Government also ought to look at the possibility of heritage making it to school curricula. Government, however, would need to carefully define what it means by heritage and not allow topics with political agendas to enter the syllabus. It would also be good if heritage is not confined to ancient monuments and thought is given to relatively recent additions also.

It is also very important that Corporation schools are made to introduce Heritage Clubs. So far, heritage has largely been seen to be an elitist activity, very often perceived and portrayed to be in conflict with the aspirations of the common man. Such misconceptions can be removed only if Corporation schools also embrace the concept of heritage conservation. It will not only broadbase heritage activities but also make conservation and restoration a way of life.

In this issue

A break for heritage: G.O. brings Heritage Clubs into schools
Restoration's welcome, but not any-which-way
Looking back on Madras Week: Some of the walks and talks during the Week
Ooty among postal heritage buildings... but not Chennai G.P.O.
The road to Fort St. George
Getting a track at Irungatukottai

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your diary


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