Element “X” of Education – For Tribal People in Odisha

by | May 29, 2018

“Professor Utonium, in an attempt to create ‘Perfect little girl’ used ‘Sugar, spice and everything nice’. However, he accidentally spilled a mysterious substance called ‘Chemical X’, creating Blossom, Bubbles and Butter Cup”

This blog is neither about ‘Power puff girls’ nor their adventures. It’s also not about Professor Utonium but it is about ‘Chemical X. It is my attempt to explore the importance of this chemical in a metaphorical way. School management committee (SMC), teachers, children, parents and community, all are major stakeholders in Tribal education but there’s one more stakeholder – Shiksha Sathee. This link makes the whole spectrum more efficient than ever before.

These Sathees are individuals from the community, or from a tribe, chosen to teach kids from there. As such, local people become teachers, they start working with the community to know about wider spectrum, and play their vital role by spreading knowledge not just to their students but also to parents and village overall. The conversations revolve around issues their community is facing and probable solutions. Since, this person is now connected with the outside world for regular interaction or to receive training, he/she is now able to solve queries in a better way and find answers. They acts as a translator between their secluded village and the rest of the world.

Except learning how to teach, they also learn about gender equity, child behavior, rights and policies, from their trainers and peers. It gives them an exposure to wider spectrum, that can be shared with the community.

Rupadhar, a Shiksha Sathee belongs to the same village as the kids he teaches. He helps people in his village to fill complicated bank forms, government scheme forms and also tells them about them as well as their importance. As an educated youth, his role would be ambiguous to his fellow villagers. But, after getting the title of Shiksha Sathee and by attending regular SMC meetings, he became more responsible to the needs of the village. The people also understood his role.

Rupadhar and his children (Upar Jhiri Primary School)

As these teachers live in the village, important stakeholders like children and parents look upon them. For they cannot take unnecessary leaves, children walk with them to school, wait for them to arrive and ask questions if they’re late, which keeps reminding them that they need to be punctual. Interacting informally with parents, they get a better understanding of children and as a result, are more empathetic towards them. They also provide a lot of emotional and educational support to kids but how else do they benefit them.

Odiya has many dialects, some written and others verbal. Teaching without knowing their local language and in frustration, beat the kids when they are unable to learn. That has imbibed fear in these little souls. Those who faced similar problems understand it better, and can relate to the ones who are dealing with the fear. Such Sathees have managed to learn new languages/dialects.

Respecting a child’s prior knowledge is one of the key factors of developing them through creative language, and these individuals from their own villages are successfully doing this. They don’t just use proper nouns like their names or parents’ names but go beyond by using local stories and songs to try teaching them. This enables them to break ice with children. At the same time, learning becomes more joyful, children tend to overcome fear and become more confident.

One of our Shiksha Sathees remembers his childhood and tells how he used to take care of his younger siblings and after leaving them at home, when he went to school, he was beaten up and was asked to work in garden with his friends for long hours. Comparing tribal people’s life in villages with city life, he says that children in cities get ample time to play and study while children here hardly get to do both, which hinders their overall development.

Shiksha Sathees have been passively helping Government Schools’ Education System to become better with the help of Teacher Training and by knowing different Learning Methods. Their fellow public school teachers have learnt how to engage with learning tools and have adopted other methods which has reduced the cases of children being beaten up.

By intervening among different stakeholders in education, Shiksha Sathees have proved themselves as important links which were missing earlier. They not only benefit teachers, community, children but also inspire drop-outs to re-join the school. In terms of quality of education in Public schools, specially in small pockets where teachers are irregular and demotivated, we need Shiksha Sathees who want betterment of their own community.

Agragamee, An NGO from South Odisha started CLDE (Creative Language Development Efforts) program for Tribal education two years back. The organization has worked extensively in education sector for more than 30 years.

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