Nomads turn keen learners

Nomads turn keen learners
Like any other nomadic dwelling, the colony of Handijogi community in Ismail Nagar in Tumakuru town is characterised by substandard houses, lack of sanitation services and electricity supply. The colony has around 40 shelters, most of which are makeshift houses made of cloth and polythene sheets. Rearing pigs is the major source of income, while some work as labourers at construction sites also. A few members of Lambani and  Hakki-Pikki communities also reside in the colony. But thanks to a determined woman and enthusiastic children, the colony stands out in one aspect – literacy. By pursuing education despite many hardships, they have set an exemplary model for many other nomadic communities.

There’s more to life...
Ten years back, a revolution started in Handijogi Colony when illiterate and differently-abled Ramakka, a member of the community, made up her mind to see the future of the next generation in the light of education. Realising the importance of literacy, she made use of the Tent School initiative of the Department of Public Instructions, which aims to provide education to the children of migrant communities. Tent Schools are temporary schools set up on the migrant community’s campsite to act as bridge schools before the children can be mainstreamed.

Convincing elders to send their children to school was not an easy task for Ramakka. School was not a feasible option for families who struggled everyday to make ends meet. Some children were even forced to beg.

Moreover, the community despised education as they felt it would make their children forget their traditions. This blind faith in their traditional values made them feel that sending their children to school was a crime. Initially, the community heads even imposed a fine on parents who sent their kids to school. 

In order to keep children free from such regressive beliefs and practices, Ramakka enrolled them at Chinnara Angala, a summer bridge school programme. Though the Tent School started with 25 children, about 150 students have benefitted from these two bridge schools. After spending six months at Tent School and Chinnara Angala, most of the children then moved on to nearby government schools. Ramakka’s dedicated efforts paid off and she changed the community’s perception of education.

As an offshoot of this literacy campaign, children studying in 8th and 9th standards teach reading and writing skills to elders. Now, after 10 years, almost all the families have realised that education will give their children a better shot at life and send them to schools. Over 40 children attend the school everyday. Though most of them discontinue after 7th standard, a few continue their studies even after high school. Two girls who started their journey from the Tent School are studying in high school and have set their own goals.

Ramakka, who is the state woman coordinator of the Federation of Nomadic Communities, felt that though the initiative is successful in the colony, many other colonies are still in the dark. She wants to spread the message of education to the rest of the nomadic families of Tumakuru town.

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