: In the 1980s, the primary school for Mathubadi village in Orissa was 6 kilometres away. Bariapada, another village had a primary school 5 kms away. In many such villages in Orissa - where the literacy rate is very low - no primary school existed. Education had not only taken a backseat but children often spent their days collecting minor forest products and helping their parents in domestic/agricultural labor. Ignorance and lack of interest among parents resulted in children not going to schools in neighbouring villages either. Inhabited by tribals and dalits these villages were completely untouched by any anti-poverty schemes and developmental programmes of the Government. Silently, in remote corners of Orissa they continue, even to this day, with their lives unaware of their rights & the rights of their children.
Orissa tribal and dalit villages plan new opportunities for children. Image courtesy: CRY PhotobankSimanchala Paricha, a Graduate in Social Work and Postgraduate in Rural Development, was no ordindary young man; he was a visionary, always imagining a better world. Having worked in the social sector for almost 7 years, in 1986 with a few friends he founded the Dalit And Adivasi Liberation Trust (DALIT) in Bamunigaon in Orissa. Their mission would be to organise and sensitise the deprived communities of their rights and holistically develop the tribal child through community mobilisation. They dreamed of giving voice to the age-old silence of tribal women and children.
Nine year old Naba is like many children in the communities; the Dalit doesn't anymore spend his day with his mother collecting and selling non-timber forest products. He walks to the NFE centre in Poiguda and learns to write and read. He dreams of becoming a teacher someday. Naba's mother who earlier placed no emphasis on education now says, "We want him to go to school. Let him have a better life then what we had". Village Education Committees/Groups have been formed who identify educational problems/issues and come up with solutions. In some villages Committee members are so motivated that they conduct meetings on their own without any persuasion from DALIT. Teachers from formal government schools also interact with and discuss various problems of the schools with the VECs in their villages.