It was heart-wrenching when I first read A.S Neill’s book, when I was 19 yrs old! I wished that I was many years younger to have been able to be in such a school as a student. The freedom of it, the mind-space it offered enchanted me. I had done the Montessori course for 3 to 6 yrs by then and I felt that the next step for education was to bring these together… And I heard about democratic schools, when I was 45 yrs old! In between all those years, incorporated these ideas into my work, wherever I was. In the new Krishnamurti School set up in Madras, where I began my work as a teacher, after being a volunteer in a village Montessori school in Tamil Nadu. In the school for working children children of fisher folk; and resource centre that I set up for teachers working in non-formal alternative schools and NGO. Andelsewhere too. Again, when I joined David Horsburgh, an Englishman, running a school and teacher training programme (Neel Bagh) in rural India near Bangalore, A.S Neill’s books were part of our study as David too was influenced by him. The ideas that struck me then and stay with me till now are – the total trust in children; seeing them as autonomous, capable beings and the careful lightness of the adult in the community.

Amukta Mahapatra

3rd Oct 2021