: 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.

DALIT Orissa tribal and dalit villages plan new opportunities for children. Image courtesy: CRY Photobank

Simanchala 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.

When instructors faced difficulty in the local dialects, middle school students from nearby formal schools extended their assistance to these instructors in interpreting and teaching younger students.
The scenario is different today in these villages. Today Bariapada village has approx. 70 students attending the Non-formal education [NFE] centre of DALIT! The Centre in Mathubadi creates a whole new world for approximately 50 children. More such Joyful Learning centres (as they are called) are run in four other villages. Having organised several meetings with parents and the community in general, DALIT has brought about some visible changes in the attitudes of the parents towards their children's education. CRY - Child Relief And You has been supporting DALIT's efforts since 1998.

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.

CRY - Child Relief and You
172A, Jodhpur Park, Calcutta 68
Tel : 033 2414 8030/8055/8118
e-mail : cryinfo.cal@crymail.org
URL: www.cry.org
The instructors at DALIT faced some difficulty in reaching all kids, because they were not entirely familiar with two of the local dialects - Kandha and Panna. To their great surprise, and the astonishment of all villagers, students of Class V from formal schools extended their assistance to these instructors in interpreting and teaching younger students. In 1998, 95% of primary school-age children did not enter the halls of a school building. In the turn of the new century nearly all children attend school. DALIT now provides education to 193 children in these six villages. It might be a drop in the ocean for many more of those unreached children in forgotten little villages in remote corners of Orissa, but the community in these six villages today has changed a great deal from what it was years back - ignorant, unaware and complacent. DALIT has been able to earn the confidence of the community, and together they now dream of a better future for their children.