Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quality education for all tribal children

GPM is so proud of its association with Reach Education Action Programme (REAP) that once again has shown incredible innovation in its campaign to give quality education to vulnerable children throughout India. With great foresight REAP has inaugurated a hostel for tribal children who would otherwise need to migrate from their villages when their families search for work to survive. The plight of vulnerable children in poor tribal families in rural India is exasperated when these families are required to migrate from their villages for up to six months of the year because a lack of seasonal work. Once a family migrates, the children’s education has for all purposes ended, guaranteeing a life of illiteracy and continued poverty. Indeed, among the Katkari tribes, migration to other cities to work at brick kilns and sugar factories is common.  Poverty and landlessness forces mass migration for their survival. Every year after the Diwali holiday, families migrate and return only in June.  They take their children along with them which means that their education is hindered as they are taken out of school.  This cycle is repeated every year and thousands of tribal children lose out on education.

REAP recognized the harsh consequences of tribal migration for children and last month opened a hostel for vulnerable children in the tribal hamlet in Lahe, Maharshtra.  Now, tribal children who would have migrated with their parents to work continue their education as they will stay at the hostel and continue their schooling uninterrupted until their parents return.   A beautiful feature of REAP’s program is the strong cooperation of the village residents themselves. Indeed one member of the tribe has given his house to be the ‘boarding’ for these children while two couples from the hamlet have volunteered to act as the children’s ‘parents’ and look after them.

REAP’s pioneering six month boarding program was initially a hard sell for the parents.  Several meetings were held with the villagers to encourage them about the plan.  Eventually the great merits of the program led to the hostel’s inauguration by REAP’s Director, Dr. Trevor Miranda, on November 20,  in the presence of the zilla parishad area development officials, head masters, school teachers,  village Sarpanch (village mayor) - who also happens to be a teacher in REAP’s program -, school children from the village and residents.  The school officials praised the unique project and said that this is a major step in providing all children a quality education.  The director announced that with the success of this pilot project, more boarding’s would be opened in villages to prevent illiteracy caused by migration.  The director also announced that REAP would provide toilets and solar lights in the village; the crowd cheered in appreciation!

REAP currently networks with about 100 Zilla Parishad Schools in Bhiwandi, Sange, Shahapur and Khardi area to bring quality education to tribal children.  REAP also runs a boarding for tribal girls in Dolkhamb, Shahapur to encourage tribal girls to complete high school.  Currently 40 tribal girls are studying there.
We commend REAP and its founder and director Dr Trevor Miranda for the pioneering dedication and commitment to the education of vulnerable children living in rural villages and urban slums.

Children at the November 20 hostel inauguration

REAP director Dr Trevor Miranda welcomed at the inauguration

Children singing at the opening ceremony

Tribal girls and boys listening to the inauguration speeches

The tribal hamlet in Lahe, Maharshtra