“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development.” – Kofi Anan
Education might be a tool for change, but what if some sections of society cannot afford to invest in this tool? Worse still, they are unaware of the force of this tool? According to India’s Census 2011, the literacy rate in the country was 73 percent, but the literacy rate for the Scheduled Tribes of India was an appallingly low 59 percent. Which means, we are only halfway there, but yet have a long way to go, not only in our efforts to achieve full literacy amongst these tribes, but to enlighten them on the importance of education.
These scheduled tribes comprise the Adivasis of India, who for decades have been oblivious to educational institutions around them. As a result, they continue to face dark times because neither do they have the funds for education, nor the awareness. But not Project Anando’s student, Dipak Sadu Mukam.
In spite of seeing hard times and living a life of poverty, Dipak’s parents strived to send him to school and fulfil all his needs for a better future. His house built from brick and bamboo may have seemed weak, but Dipak’s urge to study was strong! Hailing from a low socio-economic background, Dipak was chosen as a beneficiary of Light of Life Trust when he was in the 8th Standard. Naturally he started out as an introvert and often shied away from participating in activities. He struggled to cope with the surrounding environment at school and found it hard to blend into the culture, primarily because of his tribal background that didn’t give him enough exposure to the outer world. But that didn’t seem like a cause of concern for the mentors at LOLT. They always saw in him a spark, a willingness to succeed and they continued to put in their best efforts to tap into the hidden learner within him. Just as they would for any other student, the mentors would follow up if he missed school, encourage him to be pro-active, and teach him his due responsibilities, all of which helped him understand his self-worth. Gradually, Dipak began to communicate freely with his classmates and didn’t seem to hesitate when given a new activity.
Noticing him changing for the better fuelled our staff to go a step further, and they’d often pay him personal visits at his home to motivate and guide him and his family. Soon, not only Dipak, even his parents began to aim for the stars, which was truly a positive change in a small community like theirs. In a country where over 40 percent of tribal children don’t even have access to education, and those who do barely attend school because they succumb to the pressure of child labour, Dipak chose to change the course of his life, with a little help from LOLT’s Project Anando.
Today, Dipak loves going to school and is now a student representative of his village who aspires to be the game-changer by leading them into the light. As mentors there is nothing more gratifying for us than society’s continued support, and seeing our students imbibe not just subjective knowledge, but strong values too. Values that encourage them to pay it forward, hold LOLT in high regard, and join us in our endeavour to uplift society, one student at a time.