Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world (Freire, 1985).

“In my community, there is only one teacher for the whole school, every student irrespective of age or classes are in this same class”

“Whenever I pronounced any word in Malaylam or English wrongly, everybody laughs at me and my teacher would say “it is because you are a tribal person, that is why you cannot pronounce anything well in your life”

“We go to school because of the free food, free uniform and the welfare package that is paid to tribal students”

“Why should I waste my time for years in a school, when I know that after graduation, I will not fit into the mainstream India society or into the tribal community? I will not be accepted there and I won’t be able to understand what I should know in the tribal community?”

“In my school, all tribal students are allowed to go through the lessons until Standard 10, No pass mark for us, and no failure. At the end of Standard 10, there is 100% drop out for the tribal children”

These are some of the exact statements of the children from the tribal areas of India during our unstructured interviews with them in Kerala-India September 2013. The children were on holiday, it made is easier to round them up at a point and had a heart to heart discussion with them.

A child should be a child anywhere in the world. Everyone of them should be able to enjoy the basic fundamental human needs available and should be exposed to the same opportunities available in the nation. This is just a wish among the school going children in the Vedar community in Trivandrum- Kerala. They came into Kerala during the slave trade in 1950/53, so what? Slavery is abolished but the reality on ground leaves so much for imagination.

For a State that claims to have 100% literacy rate in India, it is surprising to find children who are just in school because of free food, free uniform and monthly stipend whereas these kids know that the goal of education anywhere in the world is a mirage when it comes to their own situation. They do not even understand the goal of learning or going through the formal education system.

Paulo Freire explained that Education should awaken the learner’s consciousness, it should be a practice of freedom as opposed to domination, according to him people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world, with which and in which they find themselves, learners should be able to see their world as a reality in process of transformation.

How I wish Paulo Freire would wake up today, and follow me for a walk in some tribal communities in India, so we can have some interaction with these students that are just in schools without any goal of being educated; not even on how to spell their names correctly.

Why should school be a place for free food and stipend? Why will a government allow a section of its citizenry to be living a life of 11th century in 2013? While will so much be expended on travelling to Mars when those on earth that we are able to see and interact with are still untouchable to us?

It was nauseating that a government school in Panamarem-Wayanad that was built in 1936 has less than 40 students’ enrolment in the whole school. They are struggling to keep students in school, even with the free provision of food and uniform! Whereas there were so many school going kids in their houses who refused to be registered in school because of discrimination and teachers' insistence to teach the children in a language they do not understand. It was a shame to see children drunk with alcohol as early as 8am when they were supposed to be in classes?

I had a sleepless night when I visited Kanjiramkulam-Kerala and spoke with the children as we discussed about solutions to the 100% drop out after Standard 10, without any provision for further education in a non-conventional form. The children go on to marry if they are girls or become daily wage laborers if they are boys. The disheartening situation of Kanjiramkulam became a positive development to what is happening in Wayanad district.

At Chattiolahoor and Chagadi tribal communities in Wayanad district, Kerala, there were schools up to Standard 4, but it was 1 school; one teacher; all students in the same class. With mouth agape I screamed “that must be Malala Yousaif recommendation that she wanted to copy”

Education is the best policy has become a cliché. A school without any goal of molding a child, to become independent, productive and responsible tax payer in the later life, who will equally contribute his quota to the development of his society is a sheer waste of time and resources. What is the usefulness of half baked youths in India? They become frustrated, live hopeless life and later on turn against the society that refused to nurture and uplift them when necessary. (This is the situation in Northern part of Nigeria presently, where the illiterate of the Hausa tribe begin to revolt against Western education).

No wonder a parent said; “we sleep, we wake, we live; no hope for a better future”

If the learner has not learned, the teacher has not taught was what we were told in those days. Today the reality and statistics is staggering. It shows that the teacher is just marking the time; when month ends they receive their pay; while the kids live in vain. Why should ward/school kid attend a school that will never put food on his table in the future? While will a parent register a child in school, nurture the child, sacrifice his time, when he knew that the child will not be accepted in the mainstream society in the long run???

The tribal people are more than 84 million during India’s last census a population that is more than some nations. How can a nation believe that it is progressing when millions of its bona-fide citizens find it difficult to spell development in their own languages??? Questioning upon questioning.

What does is cost India to create a curriculum that is geared towards empowerment to the tribal kids who find it hard to understand the lingua franca? The non-conventional method of learning is another great option too. There is an adage in my community that says, if your neighbor is eating harmful insects, caution him because his inconvenience of its consequences will soon become your inconvenience as it will result into sleepless night for all”.

Non- conventional system of education will nurture the innate abilities of these learners, it will appreciate their passion, it also bridges the gap between the theory and practical, it caters for the different learning styles of each learner and it is applicable anywhere and can be tailored towards any cultural context. Why should a learner be boxed into a single system of education when she can be encouraged to use her innate abilities, leverage on her strength and she able to learn from their daily life experiences?

There is enough room for improvement in the learning system imposed on the tribal children in their communities. Their talents and gifts will become a major source of revenue for India government if these is well monitored and appreciated. 1 school, 1 hostile, teacher, several notebooks, several uninterested students was not recommended by Malala. The world is waiting and watching India, the incredible nation, developing at a faster rate without its millions tribal people.

Comment on this Post


Yes, Freire's idea of "practice of freedom" - was a revolutionary thought and not many understood the term and was not exposed to the critically evaluate the situation. It still can be said that education is the best policy, yet, how it is implemented is crucial. Are we creating people who learn how to learn, solve problems or it is creating a compliant society far from what Friere's suggestions.

It is sad to see just 1 teacher and without a supporting mechanism. These individual teachers are expected too much and as per your example responsible for multilevel education for students who come from a different culture even though from the same country. The subtle difference among the group can create a huge challenge for a teacher who has not undergone Freirian pedagogy.

Education itself has to be redefined, re structured to address the education challenge many courtiers face including India. I do hope the progress be positive and hope there will be a way to support these students who need to education reflectively.

Enjoyed reading your post. All the best

In friendship Amei

It is hard to see l what I am witnessing and remain quiet. Education as you suggested needs total overhauling but the situation of the tribal people in India needs urgent attention.

Thanks again and again...

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

In the review of the MDGs, Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme states "Arguably, there’s less quality than before [in education]. There are more children in school, but without the resources going into training the teachers, equipping the classrooms, and so on, we have a problem. Some of the studies are a little disturbing on how little children actually learn during their time at school. Even after four or five years, they may be scarcely able to read. ... So the quality of education has emerged as an issue."

We all agree around eradicating poverty, putting children in school, etc., but we need to look at the means. We need to talk about localizing goals, issues, problems, and solutions, identifying what the barriers really are, and have an action plan to deal with them. If we can focus our efforts on this, we are more likely to achieve equitable outcomes.

As you have clearly pointed out in your article, this means meeting the tribal people where they are and developing solutions local to them.

There is no one solution to all our issues, we have to allow each community to come up with what works for them, nobody can change anybody, lets allow everyone to consciously make the necessary change.

We must stop underestimating people because they are different. Our differences should be celebrated. The people should be allowed to focus on non-conventional education if that is what they are comfortable with....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre 512 Road F Close Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https: