Rest Of My Family Travel Diary: Day 25 (part 2)

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Sadiq informed us that the Attapadi Co-operative Farming Society (ACFS) has 816 registered members and all of them belong to the scheduled tribe community – Irula, Mudugar and Kurumba. The board of directors comprise District Level Officers and four elected Scheduled Tribe members (non-official) who represent the four farms. The society’s primarily role lies in maintaining unorganised tribes as organised labour bank.

It also administers all kinds of emolument packages throughout the year as a part of their welfare measure. “We provide benefits in accordance to the Provident Fund Act and The Plantation and Labour Act of Kerala,” said Sadiq who further added that since its inception ACFS has always been engaged in the production of cash crops like cardamom and coffee, pepper, arecanut, nutmeg and cloves. They take immense pride in cultivating farming practices without the use of pesticides and other toxic ingredients.

In conversation, he also mentioned that the government allocates some funds for tribal welfare projects out of which seventy percent is set aside for education by the department of Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP). According to the records, the Attapadi Co-operative Farming Society (ACFS) manifests its social commitment in education sector by maintaining two institutions namely Attapadi Adivasi High School and Gurukulam Vidya Kendram – a holistic programme designed to impart residential coaching to failed students of higher secondary courses.

The High School has been struggling to meet funding gaps and as a result infrastructural development has taken a massive beating. However, with the support of Scheduled Tribe Development Department and Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) maintenance work was undertaken a while ago and Sasthraposhini labs were soon set up in the school.

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On the other hand, the Gurukulam was established in 2003-2004 under the direct sponsorship of ACFS. An important feature of this programme includes incorporation of cultural and traditional values apart from providing individual attention to every student. Here, the faculty conducts meetings with the parents to keep them updated of their child’s progress. The reports also state that regular medical check ups and study tours are held periodically in order to assess the improvement of the student’s overall well-being.

In all, there are 2,000 Adivasi students living in government hostels. Sharaf insisted that the day scholars who travel from remote tribal colonies to their respective schools are provided with free transportation facility under the ‘Gothra Sarathi’ scheme.

“There are sixteen pre-matric schools and one model residential school built by the ITDP. All the facilities including food, accommodation and tuition are completely free of charge upto grade 12. Every tribal student gets funds for higher studies regardless of the institution they are studying in apart from hostel fees, travel allowance and dearness allowance,” explained Sadiq.

We asked him if the tribes were reluctant to send their children to school. To that he replied,” Not at all. More than eighty percent of the families ensure that their children get a decent education. They genuinely believe that this could be the answer to their problems.”

Practices like female infanticide or distinctions based on gender are discouraged within the settlements. Both boys and girls enjoy equal rights in accordance with their tribal customs. Apparently, there are five functioning hostels and one model residential school specifically built for girls in the area.

On paper, the system and its varied structures seemed foolproof and flawless. However, our research indicated otherwise. The staggering rate at which tribal students are failing professional examinations is unprecedented. This often leads to students being forced into labour work or other menial jobs to support themselves and their families. Although, both Sadiq and Sharaf ascertained that officials are doing everything in their power to spur systematic reform in literacy, they also felt that bolder initiatives that highlight areas of improvement and focus on productive innovations could alter the face of education in Attapadi. Undoubtedly, enabling such a system that merges quality with equity is of prime importance here. And, perhaps the only way forward…

Project ‘Rest of My family‘  is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.

Through ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….

Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502

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