How a residential school in Kerala is giving wings to tribal children

6th Feb 2018
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This school gives them free access to education, food, and shelter.

The Vivekananda Residential Tribal Vidyalaya is located in the foothills of the Western Ghats, in Kerala, India. It is home to around 250 students, and provides free education.

The school runs on donations, and was built for children from various indigenous communities. Most of these communities live in very remote areas, and the children would otherwise have no access to proper education.

The journey to school often requires walking long distances, which leads to high dropout rates. To address these issues, the school offers the children a nurturing environment where they study, eat, and live.

It is run by a small but dedicated group of teachers who have become parental figures in the children’s lives. There is a real atmosphere of the school being one large family. The older students help to look after the younger ones, and everyone takes on responsibilities with daily chores. The children are brimming with energy, with so much potential and hope to reach their dreams.

The Vivekananda Residential Tribal Vidyalaya was first started in 2002, with just one shed, and a single class of 42 children. There was no electricity, and no road. Through donations, the school has grown to 250 buildings.
Most of the students grew up in the forest, in remote parts of Wayanad in Kerala, India.
Education is free. The students are given food, pen, books, accommodation and medical care. The classrooms are very simple, consisting of a few wooden benches and a blackboard.
Preethi reads in front of her school - a common practice.
Arun loves to draw. He drew this illustration free-hand, and was very proud to show it off.
The hope is that students like Venky and his friends will eventually have the opportunity to sit for the national exams to attain a Secondary School Leaving Certificate.
The school employs over 25 staff. Running costs are their biggest struggle, and teachers often go months at a time without salaries.
With some help from students, the chef makes roughly 750 meals per day in this kitchen. Lunch is simple: rice, dal and some vegetables.
The school received a donation of large industrial steamers that cook the copious amounts of rice required to feed the students and staff every day.
Amala is the founder of SaveAGram, a homestay initiative that supports the school. She encourages guests to spend time with the children so that they can learn from one another.
A small group of girls love to sing, dance and perform. They have their modern favourite songs, and they also know traditional tribal dances.
Janaki sits by the window of the girl’s dormitory. She could one day follow in the footsteps of her seniors, a handful of whom are now doing university degrees.

Photo credit: Our Better World 

Disclaimer: This article was first published in Our Better World, Singapore International Foundation. The views expressed by the author are his/her own and do not necessarily reflect that of YourStory.

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