“The teaching profession is grossly undervalued today. Personally, I feel that only people with heightened spiritual awareness should be allowed to teach; those who have absolute clarity on what they wish to do with their life. That way, we get teachers who are completely dedicated to their profession. There are 189 primary schools in all and 189 Anganwadis here. Make five really good Anganwadis with world-class education system. And, that’s all it’ll take!” said Mani with a smile.
Although, the government is trying to make amends with respect to education in Attapadi, there has been a massive upsurge in the rate of students, belonging to marginalised communities, dropping out of schools over the past few years. Inaccessibility, poor infrastructure, shortage of teachers, lack of basic amenities and low self-esteem were cited as some of the major reasons for the diminishing number of tribal students attending schools in the area. Moreover, these students are accustomed to speaking in their native tongue. All the schools follow an intensive English or Malayalam-based curriculum.
“None of the teachers could speak the tribal dialect. So, the department decided to hire a few from the hamlet to help children who were unable to cope with studies. It is really difficult to find well-qualified teachers from the tribes. Most of them have barely graduated high school,” said Mani who further added that a radical transformation in the socioeconomic status of tribes could only be achieved through education. For, it builds a sense of self-worth and independence apart from instilling political consciousness and societal awareness.
The conversation then steered towards the rapidly changing attitude of tribal communities. Today, they have evolved from following a staunch ethnocentric ideology to embracing change wholeheartedly within their social paradigm. “Fifty years ago, they would run away at the sight of an outsider. Today, they’ll run towards you for help. Every time I visit a hamlet, there is always an enthusiastic lot who will let me know if the vaccinations reached on time. Majority of the schemes introduced in these regions were done with the intention of securing vote-banks. Moreover, these projects were funded using the taxpayers’ money. And, the government decides where the funds go. The counterproductive nature of the projects in these areas could be strongly attributed to the lack of appreciation of the real needs of tribal people and inefficient utilisation of resources,” explained Mani.
The tribes in Attapadi have been categorised as the most backward and oppressed amongst underprivileged communities in Kerala. Malnutrition, decline of cultivable lands and unscientific forest management are some of the issues they are still grappling with today. In fact, a survey conducted a while ago stated that most of the children below the age of six weighed half of what has been prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO).
Two years ago, a girl wrote a letter to the Chief minister of Kerala where she mourned the loss of her brothers and sisters. Their babies breathed their last for there wasn’t a morsel to spare. She pleaded with him to end her misery; end starvation. Another child confessed that he drinks murky water when the wells dry up while some of the letters read they too have the right to live; the right to hope. Against all odds, these children fought hard to be heard. And, they still continue do so! But, what of those whose voices have now fallen silent with years of suppression; what of those whose tears shed no more…
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