HYDERABAD: The words Dalit or Balahina or Badugu, are often used to address people from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in Telangana.
But in the schools, junior colleges and degree colleges run by Telangana’s social and tribal residential educational institutions, usage of these words are strictly discouraged.
In a freewheeling chat with Express, Secretary of the Telangana’s Social Welfare Residential Education Institutions Society (TSWREIS) and Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TWREIS), RS Praveen Kumar explains why. “These words are always juxtaposed online and across media with images of weakness, poverty, manual scavenging or helplessness. But in our institutions, we are working towards producing not only smart but also socially-empowered students,” he said.
Instead, Kumar said the students are encouraged to identify themselves as a ‘Swaero’ -- SW referring to State Welfare and Aero referring to the Greek word ‘air’. Explaining the idea of SWAERO, he said that students of the social welfare schools should always remember that sky is the limit for their growth in life.
The social welfare residential schools of Telangana have been in existence since 1971 and have produced well-known personalities, including current politicians like Health minister, Eatela Rajender, TRS MLAs Balka Suman from Chennur and Kranthi Kiran from Andole.
As most of the students in the educational institutions run by the two societies belong to marginalised communities, social empowerment through various means forms an integral part of their pedagogy.
Highlighting the need for the empowerment activities, Kumar points out that not only is there a huge nutrition gap but also a learning gap between a child from a poor and from a rich family. “The difference can sometimes be of about 30 lakh words when it comes to vocabulary. The benefits which a child from a poor family gets at the university level, a child from rich family gets during his/her teens,” he pointed out.
The institutions are also equipped with a psychosocial wing to take care of empowerment of students in all forms.
And the results speak for themselves. Highlighting the fact that the performance of students studying in schools run by the two societies are better off by 15-16 per cent than that of the other State government schools, Praveen Kumar said that the main reason behind this was a close monitoring and guidance provided to the students at every step considering they spend 220 days in a year at these schools. The schools spend around `61,000 per annum on each student, providing not just quality education but also books, uniform, stationery, textbooks etc.
Not just this but the two societies also have junior colleges, started in order to decrease the drop out rate among students. A proud Kumar noted how students of the junior colleges run by the two societies, have secured 150 seats in medical colleges, 523 of them have qualified the Joint Entrance Examination (Mains) and 100 have secured seats in the prestigious Delhi University. It is not surprising then the 40,000 seats in these institutions receive over 1.5 lakh applications each year.
The schools also admit orphaned kids or children rescued from child marriages without revealing their back stories. They also impart good parenting skills to parents of their students, since most of them not equipped to take good care of their children.