Adharshila is Giving Wings to the Dreams of Displaced Sahariya Tribe Kids
Over 1,500 Sahariya tribe families gave up their forest homes for the setting up of the Kuno National Park in Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh. The Adharshila Higher Secondary School is providing free education and meals to the children of those families.
Laraib Fatima Warsi 6 Nov 2023 8:04 AM GMT
In the remote village of Agara in the Sheopur district, Madhya Pradesh, a school is giving wings to the dreams of the Sahariya tribe, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) and one of the most marginalised adivasi communities in central India.
Students enrolled at the Adharshila Higher Secondary School belong to over 1,500 Sahariya families who gave up their forest homes about 25-30 years ago to carve out the Kuno National Park, which is spread across Sheopur and Morena districts.
The protected area aims at establishing a second independent population of the Asiatic Lions, outside Gir in Gujarat, to reduce chances of the animal’s extinction. And for the same Sahariya people, a traditionally forest-dwelling community, moved out of the forests to support the government's efforts for conservation.
But displacement often leads to new challenges for the tribal groups, who already face poverty, illiteracy, early child marriage and malnutrition. Apart from these social ills, Sahariya (Saharia) tribe of central India is also known to have the highest incidence of tuberculosis in India.
To ensure that the children of the Sahariya families displaced due to Kuno National Park get access to education and a better life, the Adharshila Higher Secondary School has taken them under its fold.
Sanjana is a class 9 student of the school. Her father is an ambulance driver. “I have seen my father struggle and I don’t want us to go through what he has gone through, that's why I'll study hard so that I can become a police officer,” Sanjana, whose other love is writing poetry in Hindi, told Gaon Connection.
The school, located about 230 kilometres from the state capital Bhopal, was set up in 2005 by the Adharshila Shiksha Samiti. It is a school for the young first generation learners of the Sahariya tribe. The aim is to train the underprivileged kids to engage creatively with life and offer them opportunities to learn.
The school is from classes one to 12 and has 523 students predominantly from the Sahariya adivasi community. The students get free uniforms, books, mid day meals and stationery from the school. There is also a school bus that picks them up from their villages and drops them back.
“The tribal families relocated from Kuno were very keen on providing quality education to their children, so we decided to give them a platform,” Asmita Kabra, founder of Adharshila Shiksha Samiti told Gaon Connection. She is an economist and professor at School of Human Ecology, Dr BR Ambedkar University in Delhi.
“The Adharshila school caters to children from non-displaced villages as well near which the relocated villages were settled. These villages — Agara, Chentikheda, Larde — are also predominantly inhabited by adivasi, dalit and OBC families,” said Kabra. “We focus heavily on sports and cultural activities, where our students have begun to win accolades,” she said with pride.
The teachers teaching at the school also belong to the PVTG, which helps them connect with the students.
Kedar Adivasi is a former student of the Adharshila School, who is now a teacher there. He teaches Social Sciences to students of classes six to the tenth.
Kedar completed his B.Ed from NIOS (The National Institute of Open Schooling) and has a B.A. degree from Maitree Professional College in Bilehra, Madhya Pradesh. He lives with his wife and three children in Saran Aharwani village, about 10 kilometres from the school. Coming from the displaced Sahariya tribe himself, he was especially keen to do his bit for the community.
“I think serving the community and its people is the most crucial part of our existence. When I completed my studies from Adharshila I was too young to understand and decide what my life should look like but deep down I knew I will teach the Sahariya children so that they can work on their future and not live a life of penury,” the 30-year-old Kedar said.
“There are 23 teachers in the school, most of whom are from the Sahariya tribe. Our focus is to teach the children in a way that builds their skills, increases their employability and sets them up for a productive future,” Syed Mirajuddin, co-founder & secretary of the Adharshila School, told Gaon Connection. He has been working with the tribal children for more than 10 years.
The 45-year-old co-founder is from Patna in Bihar but shifted to Agara village in Madhya Pradesh and decided to work in the field of education at the grassroots level.
“Our aim at Adharshila is to ensure the kids of the community do not go back to doing farm labour or menial jobs to sustain themselves. We want them to study properly and find decent paying jobs,” Mirajuddin said.
At the Adharshila School, two teachers teach one class because we have combined classes for children from sixth to twelfth. “Conducting combined classes for the senior students ensures effective attention to every child from their teachers so that they can talk freely and learn about different things in a healthy environment,” said Mirajuddin.
The school runs on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and is funded by the Dharampal Satyapal Group (a leading FMCG conglomerate company). There are some individual donors as well.