A Remote School Where Tribal Children are Trained in Football and Coding
Riverside Natural School, a residential school in Mohgaon, Madhya Pradesh, provides free education and football training to Gond adivasi children, who are also learning how to code.
Laraib Fatima Warsi 28 Oct 2023 4:07 PM GMT
In a remote corner of Mandla district, about 400 kilometres from Bhopal in central India, football players such as Erling Haaland of Norwegia and Jude Bellingham from the UK are quite famous among the tribal children of Mohgaon in Madhya Pradesh.
These children of the Gond adivasi community aspire to become like these international players when they grow up. Tejaswini Maravi is one of them. The 12-year-old Gond tribal girl has been learning football since she was only seven.
“I have been playing football since I was seven. I always wanted to be a footballer and my school is helping me realise my dream. I love my mornings that start with the football practise in the school ground at six [6 am] and end after three hours of rigorous training,” Tejaswini told Gaon Connection.
She studies in class eight of the Riverside Natural School, a residential school that was started for the tribal children in 2016 and is located in Mohgaon town of Chhindwara. Tejaswini’s father is a farmer in Amjhar village and she has two siblings. She lives in the hostel of her school which has classes from one to 12. There is no school or hostel fee.
Riverside Natural School is a ray of hope for hundreds of tribal children as the school not only provides free education to adivasi kids but also trains them in football. Last year, in 2022, students of the school participated in the Subroto Cup International Football Tournament, a prestigious international inter-school football tournament that is held in New Delhi.
This unique school has been set up by Mrida Education and Welfare Society, a non-profit, with the aim to fulfil the education dream and career aspirations of tribal children from remote rural areas. With focus on contextual learning and skill building in sports, robotics, and programming, Mrida’s work is transforming the lives of marginalised tribal children. Apart from football, students at the school also learn coding.
“We focus on a new approach that along with studies, co-curricular activities like games and computer programming are equally important for the overall development of the students,” Priya Nadkarni co-founder of Mrida Education and Welfare Society told Gaon Connection. Mrida provides free of cost accommodation, food, and training and equipment to all the students. The football coaching started in the school in 2017, she added.
At present, there are around 334 students in the school, most of them from the tribal communities, out of which 152 are residential students who live in the campus, and the rest are day scholars. There are 13 teachers in the school and around 36 staff members consisting of coaches, wardens, cooks and the managerial staff.
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“We bear the travel expenses of the students as well because these children come from underprivileged backgrounds. We ensure that every child gets individual attention so that they can work on their interests,” said 38-year-old Nadkarni.
The co-educational school runs on donations from individual donors who are into various businesses like finance and manufacturing. It runs from a rented place, and there are 14 rooms which are used as classrooms in the morning and makeshift bedrooms for the residential students at night. There are 11 washrooms along with a kitchen and a library.
The playground for the students is right in front of the school. It was farmland which has been converted into a playground. There are six football coaches in the school to look after the training of the students both boys and girls, to teach them to play better.
“After coming to this school, I have been able to focus on both education and my dream of playing football. When our team had to go to participate in the Subroto cup in Delhi I thought I won’t be able to play but my coaches and teammates ensured to motivate me to play better,” said Tejaswini. At least 200 students of the school are being trained in football.
Like Tejaswini, 12-year-old Ambika Dhurwey of class seven also loves playing football. She also stays in the school hostel and has been playing football since she was seven years old. Ambika’s father is the football coach at the school.
“I love playing football and want to become famous and play at national level. We sit and watch football matches on the TV on weekends in the living area of our hostel,” Ambika told Gaon Connection. “After coming to this school, I am able to focus more on my goal [footballer] along with studying maths and english which are my favourite subjects,” she added.
In 2017, when Riverside Natural School introduced football coaching, the same year it also started coding classes for its students. These classes help students who are interested in learning computer programming.
“The idea behind starting coding classes was to cater to the children who were keen to learn the coding language and build a future in software development,” said Nadkarni.
Devendra Dhurvey, 16-year-old student of class 11th at the Riverside Natural School finds these classes very useful. “I want to become a software engineer because learning different coding languages interests me a lot. We have coding class in the morning in which we are taught HTML and C++,” the student explained, who belongs to Mandla and whose father is a farmer. He lives in the school hostel and visits home during the vacations.