‘Oppara’: How this Kerala school is fighting digital divide 

Adivasi girl Reshma KR grew up in a Wayanad village hearing the stories about the bloody Muthanga incident of February 2003.

Published: 03rd July 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd July 2022 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

Participants of the Adishakthi Summer School’s ‘Oppara’ programme

Participants of the Adishakthi Summer School’s ‘Oppara’ programme

Adivasi girl Reshma KR grew up in a Wayanad village hearing the stories about the bloody Muthanga incident of February 2003. Protests began in August 2001 after many Adivasis died of starvation in Kerala. The 48-day protest led to the state government promising to allot them land, which did not happen. When more protests continued, the police fired on the Adivasis, killing five. 

Things have changed somewhat since then. Many tribals own land, there are roads and connectivity. Reshma is now a student at the regional centre of the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Malappuram, three hours away from Wayanad by road. It wasn’t easy for her to get admission to the university. It was the Adishakthi Summer School in Kannur, which helped her navigate the maze of online procedures. 

 Students and volunteers protesting against
digital divide in education

After admission procedures for higher education went completely digital especially during the pandemic, tribal and Dalit students like Reshma had to pay a heavy price to get an education. The Adishakthi Summer School stepped in. In 2021, the school, which was formed in 2015 under the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, helped 250 students get admission to higher studies and provided counselling to 700 more students. 

This June, the school kickstarted its annual programme ‘Oppara’ (togetherness) in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram where it hosts summer classes on admission procedures, including selecting courses that match the aptitude of specific students. Sessions in higher education, courses, admission procedures and cultural activities are conducted as part of ‘Oppara’ to bring together more than 700 students of different tribes from across Kerala. 

Not many of these youngsters are aware of all the courses available and how to apply. “Internet is not available to many, especially since admission procedures happen during the peak of the monsoon, which affects connectivity. Although the government has many schemes for Adivasi students, the requirement to avail of any of them that is they should already be a student of an institution or at least should apply for the reserved seat. There are reservations for seats, but virtually no help on the admission procedure,” says Mary Lydia, PhD student and state coordinator of  Adishakthi Summer School. 

“We sponsor Adivasi students from tribes such as Paniya, Kattunaykan, Kurumbar, and Ulladan,” says Geethanandan, coordinator of the school. The cost of running ‘Oppara’ is just Rs 3 lakh a year. The funds are generated through social media fundraising. It takes a village to raise a child. And an entire state to educate one, especially if it is an Adivasi child.

India Matters


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