Published: 03rd August 2020
Meet the Kerala policeman who treks for hours to teach tribal kids in an isolated hamlet twice a week, during lockdown
Kalloopara now has a temporary school where online classes are held, thanks to the Vithura Sub Inspector K S Sudheesh. This is the heartwarming story of how it came to be
The woods are dark, deep, steep and mysterious in Thiruvananthapuram's Kalloopara. Tribal education activist Dhanya Raman tells us how there is no road that connects the hamlet to the nearest town Vithura. Instead, one has to undertake a trek that lasts for hours, crossing a steep, tall rock, surrounded by wild forest. It is home to elephants and bears. The people around that area remind us that the trek is 'adventurous' (which is the polite way of saying unpredictable and borderline dangerous) and one must really watch their step.
The trek to Kalloopara
Upon crossing the rock, you reach the tiny hamlet, home to a few Adivasi families. For almost two months since the schools in Kerala reopened online, the children here stayed away from online classes. The reason? Not many households had electricity and the telephone and internet networks were quite unstable. "Previously, these children would cross the rock and catch a jeep to go to a government school in the nearby town. However, since the lockdown, they have been staying in their homes. They could neither go to school nor attend classes online," says Dhanya. The hamlet is home to 10 school students, from class II to VIII. "Everyone is scared to go there. People don't have proper houses too," she says.
That was when Sudheesh KS, the Sub Inspector of the Vithura police station stepped in and became the man with a plan. This police officer now dons the role of a teacher twice a week for these students. "I got to know about the situation when I went to Kalloopara for COVID inspection. I knew that this place required interventions," says Sudheesh. Sudheesh and Dhanya then approached the Thiruvananthapuram ADGP Manoj Abraham, who donated a laptop and a tablet to the children there. "But there was no network connectivity and the children didn't know how to use these devices," says Sudheesh.
The children of Kalloopara at the temporary study centre
But they had a solution. With the help of the parents, Dhanya, Sudheesh and the tribal department set up a temporary study room in the hamlet, which is in fact the region's first school. "We built it using the locally available materials, just the way the tribals build their houses. Later, we got a TV and cable connection," says Sudheesh. "We also arranged a few chairs and a fan there," says Dhanya, who lauds Sudheesh for all the efforts. "Only Sudheesh could have done this. People fear going there there, but he would frequently visit the hamlet and made sure that the study room was set up," she says.
Later, Sudheesh, along with a temporary teacher and a tribal department volunteer started teaching the students there. The Student Police Cadet volunteers too helped out with the initiative "Classes are held every hour in different batches. This way, we maintain social distancing too," says Sudheesh. Apart from classes aired in the KITE Victers channel, students are taught basic language skills on Saturdays. "A lot of them do not know how to read or write Malayalam properly. I am training them now," says Sudheesh, who diligently conducts classes twice a week. He tells us how he used to conduct tuitions during his student days and that helped him a lot now.
Sudheesh and Dhanya with police volunteers during the inauguration
Dhanya says that the parents are quite happy too. "It is only now that they are relieved about their children studying. Previously, they would miss classes owing to bad weather and wild animals. But that isn't the case now. This village until now, has only one college graduate. We hope to take the numbers up now," she says.