Hunar Ki Pathshala for children of the Korku community
The Korku tribal community of Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh is predominantly migrant labourers and its members have no time or means to educate their children. A community school has managed to bring 4,000 Korku children, who had dropped out of school, back into learning.
Satish Malviya 26 Jun 2023 11:50 AM GMT
There is a spot on the way to the goat pastures, where seven-year-old Savita always stopped and stared. It fell on the way to the place where she and her grandmother took their goats to graze.
Savita is from Mehlu village in Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh, and she always made her grandmother stop too and they watched a bunch of children singing, dancing, playing and sometimes reading and writing.
Jyoti Dhurve, a teacher accompanying the children, observed Savita’s keen interest in what the rest of the children were doing. One day she approached her and asked her why she was not in school. “I left because I was scared I would be hit by the teacher,” the little girl responded.
Dhurve asked her if she would like to join the other children too and soon Savita was able to become one of them. “I will come every single day. It looks like a lot of fun and I also want to study,” she told the teacher firmly.
The little girl did not know then that the children she watched with so much longing belonged to a community learning centre called Hunar Ki Pathshala, in Khandwa district catering to 14 villages of the Khalwa Block. It is run by a non-profit called Musht Samaj Seva Samiti that works for the welfare of the Korku Adivasi Tribe.
“Savita belongs to the Korku community. Her parents are migrant labourers. Though she was admitted to a government school in Mehlu village, she left half way,” Pramila Chauhan, director of the Samaj Seva Samiti, told Gaon Connection. Savita was then taken into the Hunar Ki Pathshala in class two.
“We started Hunar Ki Pathshala in 2014. Since then, we have managed to bring back 4,000 children like Savita who had dropped out of school, back into learning,” Chauhan told Gaon Connection.
Musht Samaj Seva Samiti was founded by Tausif Shah. “We started the organisation in 2013 to skill unemployed youth from the Korku community and help them find employment. It did not go as planned as then we did not have enough funds to carry forward the scheme,” Shah told Gaon Connection. Shah and his friends had worked for many years amongst the Korku community and they realised that there was nothing much done for the education of the children of the Korku tribals.
“Lack of education was their biggest handicap,and so we decided to do something about it,” Shah said. So, the following year, in 2014, they set up the Hunar Pathshala to help the community embark on a journey of learning.
The pathshala has classes one to five with children ranging in ages between six and 14 years. “We taught them to read and write in their own language first. We encouraged them to ask questions, which they had never done before,” he said.
There are 600 children from 14 villages in Hunar Ki Pathshala in the Khalwa Block. Twenty community teachers teach them. “We will groom and support these 600 children till they complete their 12th class,” Shah said.
Chauhan who is from the Korku tribal community said education was almost non-existent in the community. “Because their parents move often in search of jobs, the children are deprived of a steady education,” she said. “The few children who do continue with school do so for the midday meal or the uniforms that are given to them. Education is not a priority at all,” she added.
The Samiti is trying to teach reading and writing to the adults in the community too along with their children. “We visit them in their homes, talk to them in their own language about the importance of education and how knowing about science and maths can ease the burden of their difficult lives,” Chauhan explained.
It is difficult to persuade and coax the children to dream big, Chauhan said. “The Korku children have no ambitions or dreams. All they know is about the physical labour that their parents do in order to survive. Nothing more outside of that,” she said. But, the children at the Hunar Ki Pathshala are slowly being encouraged to dream and think big and told that nothing is impossible for them if they set their minds to it.
Chauhan herself has spent several years as bonded labour, while Shah was once a bike mechanic. Both had the opportunity to work in social organisations such as Goonj and Spandan,which they are bringing to their mission of educating the children of the Korku tribal community.