I present below for the members/viewers an idea on educating a few native tribes of my state Odisha, India focusing on preserving their linguistic and cultural identity and empowering the communities to own the process. At the same time I would like to underline that I am keen on translating the idea into practice and am looking for agencies/ individuals to financially support me for the same. Responses and offer of support are cordially solicited.

 

THE IDEA
Tribes should determine, own and control their education. Instead of the dominant section represented by authorities in the government and corporate institutions taking decision as to what the education for tribal children should be like, the indigenous tribes who have socioeconomic and cultural lives different from the nontribal sections should be allowed to build a philosophy and a methodology that would best suit their interest.

The expected outcome:-
Emergence of brilliant teachers, teacher educators, education experts, creative writers and resource persons of varied disciplines who will decide what is good for their children and what the bridge should be like with the mainstream.-

The strategy is not just about including mother-tongue at the primary level or recruiting a few tribal teachers here and there. It is to entail taping of native resources- human, cultural, historical, drawing contents from people’s regular interface with the state and the surrounding environment, and establishing the community’s role as subject, not mere recipient, in the education discourse.

 

The NEWNESS of the Idea lies in contrast as seen in the present trend. For those who advocate and open opportunities of education for tribal children, the catch word is “Mainstreaming” and the implicit intent is merger of the marginalized communities into a single social and development paradigm. Thus the tribes face the danger of losing their unique identity on one hand and becoming a race of modern day slaves, on the other.

 

The VALUE of the Idea:-
1. Further enriching democracy by giving the concerned communities to choose the way of educating themselves-

2. Transforming the people to free themselves from oppressive forces-      
3. Each constituent unit of our diverse society should retain its ethos and assert equal dignity.

 

MY PAST TRACK RECORDFrom 1991 onward -
1. The prevailing system was found ignoring the special needs of the tribes like Santal, Kol-Ho and Munda in Odisha. Along the then civil society spirit I decided to undertake ‘region-specific/ Community-specific approach to education as an answer. I did all this through my own organization called Rural Education Committee in Mayurbhanj district.

2. We opened 30 evening schools for children; appointed tribal teachers to eliminate the language and culture gaps that occurred when a nontribal teacher taught;

3. Adopted two broad strategies- a.    A child-friendly pedagogy- production of locality-specific textbooks, bilingual literature, regular teacher training;  b.     Involvement of community in school management.

4. As a response to problems of poverty economic orientation was given to educational transaction- metric tools of measurement used as teaching-aids, community shop and oil-pressing units were run with children participating, Collective spirit encouraged by involving people in some income-generaing activities to raise funds for school.5.    Street-plays and newsletter were used to influence the greater public including govt school teachers.

 

LESSONS LEARNT ON THE WAY
1.    Separate plans necessary for tribal communities with distinct life-style and socioeconomic culture; schooling timing be decided as per children’s convenience; Economic components must be included to make education more responsive.
2.    At one point I thought the children in the formal stream be taught the contents in their home language for the entire elementary stage to check high rates of drop-out and failure at the high-school level since they face an unequal competition with their mainstream peers. But gradually I felt that would do no good as the children had to fight a battle in a stranger’s territory.

 

WITH FAVOURABLE RESPONSES FROM READERS AND SUPPORTERS I WILL BE DELIGHTED TO SHARE MORE DETAILS OF MY PLAN OF ACTION. YOU MAY USE MY EMAIL: rec_mbj@rediffmail.com to send your response as well.

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