How the education work began – an introduction

Kadichankolli, 1991 – The first `school’ begins in this village. The teacher, Raji, is from the village. The medium of instruction is `Bettakurumba’.  One would wonder what the significance of this is.

The Gudalur Block has as many as eleven residential schools exclusively for the tribals, called Government Tribal Residential schools (GTR Schools). Begun in the 60s, they seem to have started off well with some inspired teachers in the early years. At some point the rot had set in and in the last two decades, hardly anyone has completed schooling from these schools. The damage to the tribals has not been purely from the educational angle, but also cultural. 

As it is, like this Kattunayakan boy, adivasi children go to school against heavy odds and after surmounting many obstacles. But, when they first went to the school for admission, the Headmasters straight away denigrated their names and changed them. Most of the adivasi children who have been to school have two names today. In addition to this, they are not allowed to talk in their languages. These five-year-olds would know no other language other than their mother-tongue and this really has very detrimental effect on them. They are also not used to threats and beating, and this really scares them. Therefore, at the first opportunity, they escape from these schools, never to return.

In 1992, through ACCORD, we decided to change this by actually getting into the schools. For this, we took on one educated tribal youth for each of the schools. This person would be able to liaise between the community and the school, and at the same time take care of the child in the school. We also hoped that the schools would allow them to teach. This had a tremendous impact upon the community and they began to send their children to schools. However, it was not particularly well received by the teachers in the schools, who felt that we were now keeping track of them. There’s no denying that this too was being done and through the Adivasi Sangams (AMS), a number of petitions were sent to higher authorities who conducted inspections for the first time.

This led to the children being treated better in the schools and the materials that they were supposed to be given like books, clothes, soap, oil, blankets etc. were now made available. As one can imagine, the teachers wanted to keep our representatives as far away as possible and whatever teaching tasks were given to them earlier were being stopped. Thus, in 1995, when the Mahasabha - the general meeting of 175 leaders from all the villages to assess the progress made to their lives - met, they decided that everything else had improved in these schools except the education. They felt that the only solution to this problem was to have a school of their own, just like they had a hospital of their own.

This was how the first batch of adivasi children came to Vidyodaya School. Vidyodaya School was a small private school started for the children of some of the staff of ACCORD and later for some from the local community. By 1995, it was not certain whether it wanted to continue or not, as the children for whom it was started were passing out. At that juncture, the AMS expressed interest in the school and wondered whether this could not become a school for Adivasi children.

We thought that it would be a good start to begin with ten adivasi children as there were already non-adivasi children studying in the school. However, 43 children turned up. There was no space to accommodate this many and typically, the adivasi parents responded without second thoughts that they would help to put up a building. Within two weeks parents, teachers and children together put up the building required for the school. This is the picture of that building.

The AMS leadership felt that more than trying to convince the government teachers as to the capabilities of the children, it was important to convince the adivasi community as to their own capabilities. This had to be visible and an institution was necessary for them to see it. Thus over the last nine years a large number of people have come to observe the children and watch them grow.

The intervention has grown from working in one school –Vidyodaya – to all the schools in the Gudalur Block. Our objective is to ensure 100% enrolment in the primary schools. Most of the adivasi children studying in the schools today are first generation learners.

Like this girl.  

From a mere 43 students in 1996, we have as many as 2180 children admitted to various government and private schools today (2004-2005).

At Vidyodaya School importance is given not just to academic development of the children; Handicrafts, innovative project work, singing, dancing, drawing, painting and theatre are conducted to bring out the innate creative abilities of the children. Adivasi traditional songs, dances and story-telling are also given great importance.

A detailed report of our activities is also given here. Do take a look.

Since the year 2000 the educational intervention is being implemented with financial assistance of Sir Ratan Tata Trust. We thank SRTT for their unstinted support for our activities.


The Trust has now been permitted to receive funds from foreign sources too

(Vide our No. 075970111. Dated: 9th May 2006)

 All Indian contributors are exempt under Section 80 G of the income Tax Act.

(Vide our No. 227(306)/CIT-II/2001-02/80G valid up to 31-3-2008)

 We request you to make out your cheque or Demand Draft in the name of:


 and sent to :

 The Managing Trustee

Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust

Post Box No. 28,

Gudalur – 643212

The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

India .


In case you wish to make a bank transfer, please contact us over phone or email and we will give you the Bank Account number.
If you wish to volunteer please take a look at our current volunteer requirement.

 Tel. No. 91-4262-261927



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