2015-2018: India – Adivasi Children’s College with Pipal Tree Trust
Adivasi make up 8.6% of India’s population or 104 million according to the 2011 census. Many have been displaced by the conversion of forests as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, construction of reservoirs, and other development projects, which denied them access to their traditional ways of making a living from the forest. Today most Adivasi children drop out of the government schools because their parents are forced to migrate in search of work, or because there is little motivation to go to school. Only a minority of them finish high school. The number of children who go for higher education is infinitesimally small.
Through one of our board members, Professor Varghese Manaloor, University of Alberta. Augustana Campus, we were introduced to Pipal Tree, a non-profit trust established in 1984. Pipal Tree initiated the Children’s College in 2011 near the Nagarahole National Park in Mysore district of Karnataka to assist disadvantaged Adivasi children belonging to Jenu Kuruba and Yerava Adivasi communities to complete school education.
When the Kabani dam was built in 1973 a large number of Adivasis from this area were displaced and became migrant agricultural labourers. Later the forest department evicted a large number of Adivasis from their forest homes on the pretext that human beings should not live in a wildlife sanctuary. They were seen to be a threat to wildlife. Their struggle for land and access to forest and its resources for livelihood still continue. The Adivasi children are rooted in place and in the community of that place. But they are not well cared for as community resources are limited. They are straddling the cultures of tribal and modern India and they have little hope of thriving without adequate access to nutritious food, clean water, shelter and education.
The programme provides shelter, food, medical care, and assistance with school curriculum, and supplements the school education with activities rooted in tribal values and modern needs. The vision of this programme is to provide an environment where an Adivasi child can actually dream of a life that is different from that of his poverty-stricken parents. The programme believes that Adivasi people and their children have much to contribute. Their centuries of wisdom about living sustainably on this planet must be harvested and they should be enabled to contribute to our shared future. The Children’s College aims to educate the children of the forest who may then help us all bridge the increasing divide between the earth based knowledge we need to survive and the mechanics of modern life.
The Sahakarini board has approved a project covering two years’ expenses in the amount of $21,000.00. We look forward to hearing how the project progresses and the effect it has on the lives of the children and their families.
Because Pipal Tree’s experience shows that girl children need more support in completing their education than boy children (due to several cultural and social factors which limit the mobility of girls), Pipal Tree made the decision this past year to select 7 girls to replace the 7 boys who were graduating and after the remaining boys graduate, to enroll only girls. As the work of the College becomes better known, there are many applications for new students.
Board members sent letters to the children and when Siddhartha, leader of Pipal Tree, visited here in November, he brought with him many painted bamboo pencil holders made by the children. These were among the most popular items at the 2016 Loaves and Fishes auction and have become treasures to those fortunate enough to receive one. According to Siddhartha, this phenomenon both amazed and amused the children.
Pipal Tree is working hard on ensuring that the tribal values that are the children’s heritage are promoted and at the same time, that the students receive help with their academics. Committees of children have been formed – Kitchen, Campus and Kitchen Garden Maintenance, Library and Daily Activities.
Click on the following link to read a U of A student’s reflection on her visit to the Children’s College. Reflection on visit to Pipal Tree Children’s College
Project SHINE – Sanitation and Hygiene INnovation in Education
Project SHINE is a collaborative research project between the University of Calgary (Global Health and International Partnerships) and the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania. The project aims to build the capacity of youth and communities to develop and sustain locally relevant strategies to prevent parasitic infection and improve sanitation and hygiene in Ngorongoro Conservation Area schools and communities. Twenty-three million people in Tanzania lack access to safe drinking water, and over 4000 children die every year from diarrhea due to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
As part of its work, SHINE has formed a working relationship with the Canmore-based Rocky Mountain Soap Company to teach community members to make high quality soap. An article about the soap-making project can be found in the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
Thanks to support provided by Sahakarini, Project SHINE has given rise to a new organization in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area called Nyuat, which means “hard working initiative”. Nyuat’s mission is two-fold: to reach the most marginalized in the community with education about the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene to health, and to make high quality soap that can benefit all and serve as a source of income generation. The group has named their soap Ewong’an, which means “from darkness to light”.