Looking Inward, Looking Forward: Articulating Alternatives to the Education System for Adivasis, by Adivasis

Chinmayi Jayakumar, Payain Gangadharan, Suganya Sankaran | 2023


The education question for the four indigenous communities of Gudalur, Tamil Nadu has been shrouded in silence by those in power, and on the rare occasions that the shroud has been lifted, the people have seldom had their say. This report explores how the Bettakurumba, Kattunayakan, Mullakurumba and Paniya communities of Gudalur have experienced the current education system so far, their understanding of the purpose of Adivasi education, and an alternate conceptualisation of educational practices geared towards greater equality and justice as understood by the people of the community. To achieve this, the lived experiences of the people and their perspectives on the needs of their children are at the centre of our research. Qualitative data was collected through focus group discussions and workshops with 165 participants from the communities, who are also stakeholders in the education system in various ways. The report confirms that the current education system fails to accommodate the diversity of needs and aspirations of the Adivasi communities, meting out an education that alienates their culture and values. It puts forth the purpose of education, as demanded by the participants, and foregrounds the need for an education that enables their children to navigate their home worlds and the modern world with knowledge, dignity, and character, and lead contented lives. Since the school alone is insufficient to meet these educational needs, there is a need to reclaim the village as a site of learning and strengthen the leadership in the villages. Finally, the report outlines certain educational practices that will facilitate the creation of a meaningful and culturally relevant education system for Adivasi children.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24943/TESF0205.2023