These student police cadets raised funds and set up study centres for tribal kids in T'puram

Anver K, the teacher in-charge of SPC in Vithura talks about how they have enabled education in difficult terrains
Student study centre erected by the tribal community | Pic: Courtesy of Anver K
Student study centre erected by the tribal community | Pic: Courtesy of Anver K

They say teaching a student can help them gain a livelihood for themselves. But what do you do when teaching itself is completely disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic? You start a study centre, of course! The Student Police Cadets of the Government Vocational and Higher Secondary School, Vithura in Thiruvananthapuram have been on a mission just like that. They have helped set up four kuttippallikkoodams or student study centres in various tribal settlements within the district. We talked to their teacher in-charge, Anver K, about how the project came to be and what are the efforts they are taking to ensure that the education of tribal children goes on without any hindrance.

Could you tell us about how the project was initiated?

Last year, as part of our 'Oru Vayaroottam' campaign, the Student Police Cadets and teachers at the school provided food and medicine kits to the people in Kalloopara. At that time they requested us to make some arrangements for the education of their children as the lockdown had meant complete disruption of their schooling. We gave them our word that if they can create a shelter where students can sit and study, then we would provide all the facilities that would be required for the children's education. That is how the idea of a kuttippallikkoodam was born. We then provided a TV, DTH connection, whiteboard, markers, furniture and study materials for all the children. Apart from Kalloopara, we now have a study centre at Kongamarathinmood as well as Elavinmoodu. A fourth one at Pallippura Karikkakom will be launched within a month.

How did you manage to get the funding for the project?

That is a story in itself. The student cadets managed to find sponsors and talked to them regarding the initiative. That is how they managed to get funds for the TV and DTH connection. For the study kits, the cadets raised money through several lockdown challenges. For instance, the cadets would prepare pickle and payasam at home and sell them to their relatives and neighbours. Many people actually contributed way more than the selling price. We also collected money from the students' scholarships and prize money that they received for winning several competitions. This is how we collected funds for providing materials like notebooks, pens and other essentials.

How have you ensured smooth running of the study centres?

Actually, the study centres are functioning even now when schools have been shut across the state owing to the pandemic. The kuttipallikkoodams have been taken over by the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) and they have assigned one educator each to the study centres. They ensure that all COVID-19 protocols are followed and monitor the classes being telecast on the KITE-Victers channel. They provide any sort of academic support required by the children.

How would the study centres remain in use after schools resume operation?

We have thought of converting them into PSC coaching centres for the young people living in the tribal settlements. We also intend to run them as student orientation centres for children who want coaching in specific subjects and for those who have failed their board exams but wish to write them again. 

There must have been some challenges along the way. Tell us how you overcame them? 

The first challenge was to get to these tribal settlements itself. They are quite inaccessible so getting the required materials for the class to the study centres was a big task for us. One of our teachers is accompanied daily by two people from the tribal settlements because getting to the study centre involves going through dense forest areas. Second big challenge was the funding. We had to gather about 30,000-40,000 rupees to put up one study centre. Another big obstacle was to convince some of the parents as to why this project is an essential thing for their children. But once they were convinced, they extended their full support to the initiative and helped erect the settlement for the study centre.

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