NAGAPATTINAM: Two Aadhiyan girls have devoted themselves to educating others of their nomadic community with the help of a private school in Keezhakaraiyiruppu village. Classified as Scheduled Tribes in Tamil Nadu, the main occupation of Aadhiyans is fortune-telling using a decorated cow, popularly called ‘Boom Boom Maattukkarar’. Even though 90 per cent of them are nomadic, some have stayed put in certain regions since the times of their ancestors.
Around 100 Aadhiyan families reside in the Tsunami Rehabilitation Centre at Sellur on the outskirts of Nagapattinam. With fortune telling not generating much income, many have turned daily wage workers.
Though many have left their traditional vocation behind, modernity is still a challenge. Of the 600 locals in Sellur, only three are graduates.
Two have opted for teaching to educate others of the tribe. M Lakshmi (21), who completed a BA in Economics and K Murugammal (22) graduated in 2014 and are now handling classes in the Vaanavil private school. The school provides free education to tribals.
Speaking to Express, Lakshmi said, “All of us used to live in MGR Nagar and relocated to Sellur after the tsunami. Since our parents are no longer involved in fortune-telling, most of us are daily wagers. Many have taken loans at high interest and in order to repay, they even send their children to beg or sell stickers in Velankanni.”
She added, “All this changed with the arrival of the Vaanavil school. With the help of the district education department and SSA, children from nomadic tribes were admitted to the school. I entered the school in Class V. I have seen many drop out due to financial crisis. So, I decided to work here as a teacher along with my friend Murugammal to educate my people.”
As of now, 61 students from the Aadhiyan and Narikkurava tribes are studying in the school ably guided by Lakshmi and Murugammal. Earlier, the management had no idea where dropouts ended up but now with Lakshmi and Murugammal around, it is easier to track them down.
Shalini, principal of the school, said, “Giving admission to tribal students is an easy task but ensuring they complete their education is difficult. Though some progressive senior village residents and locals support us, many of the parents are interested in sending their kids out to earn money without realising the value of education.”