Six tribal students from Kerala’s Attappady region, the tribal zone in the state known for malnutrition and poverty, have weathered all odds and made it to the Sainik School at Thiruvananthapuram.
Thanks to a unique handholding exercise launched by the 1991 alumni batch of the school, this is for the first time that children from the most backward tribal communities of Attappady have secured admission in Class VI at the school under the Defence Ministry. A total of 24 tribal children were selected from various schools at Attappady region to undergo a six-month special training to take part in the All-India Sainik School examination held earlier this year.
The coaching sessions were held under the aegis of the 1991 alumni batch of Sainik School and from among the 24 students, six finally made it into the final list when the results were announced last week.
The Sainik School batch of 1991 took up the initiative to mark the silver jubilee of the batch and named the idea “Project Shine” in memory of a batch mate Shine Baby, who died in 2006.
“Every batch takes up some project in their silver jubilee year. We thought about something innovative and meaningful to demonstrate our social commitment. Hence, we decided to prepare tribal children for the All-India entrance exam. In the long run, we want to groom defence officers from the tribal community,” said Babu Mathew, convener of the project.
The coaching, that began in July, 2015, was held every Saturday for six hours and was based on socio-emotional learning approach, which imparts mental skills to understand and manage emotions and help build relationships and show empathy for others, Mathew said.
“We managed to establish a good rapport with the parents and children to groom a gradual interest in the project. After every class, each student was assessed individually and further course of the coaching was designed accordingly. The project also involved a socialisation process for the tribal children,” he added.
Dr Sunil Rajendran, another alumnus of the 1991 batch, said the emphasis was all-round development of the children. “The transformation has been visible: their body language and the attitude have undergone a sea change. The key is making the tribal children and their parents realise that there are unlimited possibilities beyond what they have been led to believe,” Dr Rajendran added.
Mathew said the alumni batch would continue to support the tribal students admitted to the school to ensure that they complete the course. “Six of our batchmates would function as local guardians for these children, to give necessary financial support until they complete Class XII. In the past, students from ST communities, who had got admission at the Sainik School, had not completed their classes at the school.”
Tribal activist K A Ramu said, “Tribal children should be exposed to a situation which can motivate them. Many educated tribals could not succeed in life for want of this motivating scenario, though there are exceptional cases. When educated tribal youths at Attappady sit idle, it is tough to inspire the children.”
Tribal youth M Balan, whose son B Hari has got admission at the Sainik School, said, “I have heard that he has got admission in a school in Thiruvananthapuram. They (the training organisers) showed me a video film of the school. I can’t give him good food and education. I hope my son would be able to get a job in future with their support.”
R Sathi, whose son R Vishnu is another recruit, said none from her Vannanthalamedu colony at Attappady had gone outside to study. “My son is worried about what would happen at the new school,” said Sathi.