Quality education and health for children from marginalized families: Vidyodaya & Thulir – Tamil Nadu

Vidyodaya School, located near Gudalur in the Nilgiris, TN, teaches mostly tribal children. […] Vidyodaya is more than just a school. It is a major education programme to ensure that over 3500 tribal children in the Gudalur Block of the Nilgiris district of Tamilnadu can pursue their studies. These tribes are the only ones in Tamilnadu categorized by the Govt of India under Primitive Tribal Group. Almost all these children are first generation learners.

Learn more: https://www.vidyodaya.org/vbvt >>

Source: VISWA BHARATI VIDYODAYA
URL: https://ashanet.org/project/?pid=668
Date Visited: 18 January 2022

Shanthi Kunjan with mother © Priti David in 
“The forest in Shanthi Teacher’s classroom” on Ruralindiaonline.org >>
More about Tribal elders & Women >>
Success stories >>

Thulir is an alternative school (formerly an Education Resource Center for children and young adults) for children at Sittilingi which is a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. It is a Tamil word meaning, “tender shoot”, also “to sprout”.

Learn more: https://www.thulir.org/wp/blog >>

Source: THULIR TRUST – EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER, DHARMAPURI
URL: https://ashanet.org/project/?pid=967
Date Visited: 18 January 2022

Watch a video titled Empowering through Education in Tamil Nadu by the Association for India’s Development >>

The group was named Asha to represent the hope that had brought these individuals together and the hope that they aimed to bring into the lives of children in India. In that summer of 1991, Asha was born at the University of California in Berkeley. Read The Beginnings by V.J.P.Srivatsavoy: A write-up about Asha’s history.

Source: ASHA: THE STORY
URL: https://ashanet.org/about/
Date Visited: 18 January 2022

Adivasi communities traditionally depended on the forest for all their nutritional needs. They subsisted mainly on fruits, vegetables, tubers, fish, small game as well as the occasional crop they grew, predominantly coarse grains. However, as time passed and the nature of, as well as their access to, forests changed, their diet started becoming deficient. […]

This deficiency started manifesting in the form of rampant malnutrition, among adults and children alike, underweight babies as well as high maternal mortality [and] increased susceptibility to Tuberculosis among the Adivasis.

Blog post “Gardening their way to Good Health” by ACCORD – Action for Community Organisation, Rehabilitation and Development (Accordweb, 14 March 2017) | Backup file:

The educational establishment has entrenched interests within it for whom the improvement of Adivasi education is not a priority and who may even look down upon them as second-class citizens.” – Amman Madan, Rama Sastry and B Ramdas in “Social Movements and Educational Change: A Case Study of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam” | Learn more >>

“The goal is to prepare some model students in our villages, so that others will be inspired to follow them.” – Boro Baski in Long-term success of non-formal Adivasi school in West Bengal

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[*] Some clarifications on caste-related issues by reputed scholars

Understanding “caste” in the context of Indian democracy: The “Poona Pact of 1932”
“Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar differed over how to address caste inequities through the electoral system. Their exchanges led to the Poona Pact of 1932, which shaped the reservation system in India’s electoral politics. […]
Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. Their subsequent debates have shaped the course of Indian society and politics. While Gandhi denounced untouchability, he did not condemn the varna system, a social hierarchy based on occupation, for most of his life. He believed in reforming the caste system through the abolition of untouchability and by giving equal status to each occupation. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, argued that the caste system disorganised and ‘demoralised Hindu society, reducing it to a collection of castes’. […] 
And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/history-of-it/story/ambedkar-gandhi-caste-system-poona-pact-1932-reservation-2445208-2023-10-06

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“That upper caste groups should declare themselves to be OBCs [Other Backward Castes] and want to avail of the reservation policy is a pandering to caste politics of course, as also are caste vote-banks. It is partially a reflection of the insecurity that the neo-liberal market economy has created among the middle-class. Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar  (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) interviewed by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015)
URL: https://caravanmagazine.in/vantage/discipline-notion-particular-government-interview-romila-thapar 

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Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” – Book review by Dilip Mandal for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (The Print, 23 August 2020)
URL: https://theprint.in/opinion/oprah-winfrey-wilkerson-caste-100-us-ceos-indians-wont-talk-about-it/487143/

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“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [However] caste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption. There is a tendency to assume that caste is as old as Indian civilization itself, but this assumption does not fit our historical knowledge. To be precise, however, we must distinguish between social stratification in general and caste as a specific form. […]
From the early modern period till today, then, caste has been an intrinsic feature of Indian society. It has been common to refer to this as the ‘caste system’. But it is debatable whether the term ‘system’ is appropriate here, unless we simply take for granted that any society is a ‘social system’. First, and this is quite clear when we look at the history of distinct castes, the ‘system’ and the place various groups occupy within it have been constantly changing. Second, no hierarchical order of castes has ever been universally accepted […] but what is certain is that there is no consensus on a single hierarchical order.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021), pp. 1-2
URL: https://www.academia.edu/49963457

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“There is a need for intercultural education. We all need to work together to bridge these divides not only between religions and castes but also regions. It is not correct to think that one part is better than the other. Some of the limitations of India as a whole are due to our common heritage, say the one that has restricted women from having a flourishing life for themselves.” – Prof. V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) in “On the so called North-South Divide in India” (personal blog post in Economics in Action, 13 April 2024)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2024/04/13/on-the-so-called-north-south-divide-in-india/

“It was assumed that tribal people have same health problems, similar needs and hence the uniform national pattern of rural health care would be applicable to them as well, albeit with some alteration in population: provider ratio. The different terrain and environment in which they live, different social systems, different culture and hence different health care needs were not addressed.” – Abhay Bang in Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health >>

Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India.
Please note: the facts and figures cited (via hyperlinks) links call for updates and fact checking >>
Cultural invisibility – India’s 600 potentially endangered languages | Linguistic Survey of India (official website) >> 

Explore India’s tribal cultural heritage with the help of another interactive map >>