“They do so not just for themselves but for the larger good of the country and the ecological health of the world”: In support of a syllabus reflecting Adivasi knowledge systems and ways of life

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KISS is a boarding school exclusively for Adivasi children based in Bhubaneswar. Founder Achyuta Samanta is the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Lok Sabha MP from Kandhamal, Odisha. KISS houses about 30,000 girls and boys of different Adivasi communities from Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Assam and other states. […]

KISS calls itself the “first ever tribal university” of the world, without a faculty to speak of. Former director of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati campus Virginius Xaxa, who headed a high-level committee on Tribals setup by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, says “it is a means to detribalize the Adivasi people and fill them with ideas and concepts that suits the current format of mainstream societal norms and ruling class”. The first and most important step in this direction is to uproot them from their villages and destabilize their cultural origins.” […]

Challenging the idea of KISS hosting the IUAES’s World Congress of Anthropology 2023, Adivasi leader Soni Sori from Bastar, Chhattisgarh, says: “Adivasis do not need an education to understand the rights over one’s own lands, forests and territories, which they imbibe growing up in their community itself. But when factory schools like KISS take children away from their homes and ecologies, they are consciously displacing children from their everyday realities, with a curriculum that teaches children to be ashamed of their community, its knowledge systems and ways of life. This makes Adivasi children unwilling to stand in defence of their lands and homes from all kinds of occupation, right from corporate takeovers to settler colonialism. I believe that when the Adivasis defend their homes and lands they do so not just for themselves but for the larger good of the country and the ecological health of the world.”

Source: “Adivasis Protest Awarding of World Congress of Anthropology 2023 to KISS” (Forward Press, 23 July 2020)
URL: https://www.academia.edu/43929808/
Date Visited: 28 November 2020

KISS seems to share key features of U.S. residential schools, and its stated goal of ‘converting tax consumers into taxpayers’ implies a view of tribal cultures as ‘primitive’. This insensitivity to the complexity of Adivasi society and economy, the sheer scale of KISS, and its distance from villages, alienate children from their roots. The free education is hyped as a ‘gift’ for Adivasi children — yet why do police play such a big role in bringing the children to school? […]

This abysmal situation stands in stark contrast to a growing network of alternative schools that offer a different kind of hope. On a very small scale compared to the widely promoted homogenising mega-schools, they respect diversity and are sensitive to the socio-cultural and political context of the children. […]

The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs.

Source: Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta in “Are mega residential schools wiping out India’s Adivasi culture?” (The Hindu, 13 February 2021)
URL: https://www.thehindu.com/society/children-from-tribal-communities-are-being-corralled-into-mass-schools-that-are-wiping-out-cultures/article33818793.ece
Date visited: 16 February 2021

[T]he Kalinga Institute of Social Scien­ces (KISS), runs a school for tribal children, many of them from PVTG (parti­cularly vulnerable tribal groups), from across Orissa and beyond. “We provide them free education, besides food, lodging, clothes, medicine, study material, from KG to PG,” says KISS spokesperson Shradhanjali Nayak. […]

“I could not speak any language other than Bonda, my mother tongue, when I came here in 2006,” says Hadi Dhangdamajhi, a plus-two student of humanities at the school. “Today, I can speak, read and write in Oriya, Hindi and English.”

When Outlook reached the sprawling KISS campus in Bhubaneswar, it was lunch time. Thousands of children, some as young as five, stood neatly in queues, shining steel plates in hand, awaiting their turn to get into the giant dining hall that can accommodate 10,000 at a time. […]

Source: “A Kiss Of Life For Kalinga Kids” by Sandeep Sahu, Outlook Magazine, 14 December 2015
Address: https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/a-kiss-of-life-for-kalinga-kids/296022
Date Visited: 28 November 2020

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Backgrounder & image © Economic Times >>
  • Ekalavya* Residential School Scheme (EMR): a network of boarding schools where tribal children are to be educated in accordance with rules and syllabi provided by the government; such schools are being designated as “Eklavya Model Residential School (EMR)” with the objective of empowering students “to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.” – Government Guidelines 2010 | Backup >>
  • Residential School and Ashram School
    In some regions there are similar “Residential Schools” and “Ashram Schools” for tribal children, as in Tripura where they are managed by a society called “Tripura Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TTWREIS)” – Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Tripura
  • Factory schools “exist to turn tribal and indigenous children – who have their own language and culture – into compliant workers-of-the-future. The world’s largest Factory School stated that it turns ‘Tax consumers into tax payers, liabilities into assets’.” – survivalinternational.org/factoryschools

    Up-to-date information about these and related issues: Safe custom search engine >>

* Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya): the name of a legendary archer prodigy “who, being a Nishada [Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person, outcast”], had to give his thumb as a fee to the brahmin guru thus terminating his skill as an archer.” – Romila Thapar (“The epic of the Bharatas”) | Read the full paper here | Backup download link (pdf) >>

Note: “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” amounts to genocide, which the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention defines as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II, d & e)

Learn more about Childrens rights: UNICEF India | Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools | Rights of Indigenous Peoples >>

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