COIMBATORE: A grassroots movement to keep Adivasi kids in school has seemingly worked wonders in over 320 tribal hamlets in Gudalur, Nilgiris. The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, Gudalur, spearheaded a movement that prevents Adivasi children from dropping out of school, by involving local tribal communities in the process.
Members of the Sangam said that in the early 90’s, tribal children would often drop out of school. One reason was because they only conversed in their dialects, and could not follow teaching in Tamil or English, which were the mediums of instruction. They also faced discrimination at the hands of teachers and headmistresses.
In 1999, a survey by the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam discovered that only 737 children were enrolled in schools in Gudalur. Today, thanks to their efforts, over 2,800 tribal children are studying in schools across Gudalur.
Speaking to Express, D Ramdas, former Founder-Trustee of the Viswa Bharathi Vidyodaya Trust, which worked through the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, said they appointed village elders in all tribal hamlets and have given them the responsibility to take children to school, wait till classes get over, and then return.
“At one point, there were 75 such elders working to ensure children stay in school and don’t skip classes. Now, the number has reduced to 12 as the older children have taken up the responsibility and help those in lower classes,” he said.
These persons would keep a track of children in their villages and ensure that they would at least complete their basic education.
Taking cognizance of the work done by the Sangam, government programmes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan also began providing escort services and even made arrangements to transport children to school, said Ramdas.