Published: 15th June 2020
This collective has dedicated TVs for students in underprivileged villages across three districts in Kerala
The Our Village, Our School initiative began with the mission to provide TVs to 18 underprivileged children of the Kattunayakar community to continue their education
In Ward 14, Mullankolly of Padachira village in Wayanad, 18 students have their names registered in the attendance list of the local government school. As classes restart and teachers visit their students in their houses through online classes, these voices remain curiously absent. Why? There is not a single television set, computer or tablet in the village. Made up almost entirely of families belonging to the Kattunayakar community, one of the most underprivileged tribal groups in the state, the village which is just recovering from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has no answers for its youngest inhabitants.
The Our Village, Our School project was created with the intention to fill these gaps. A small collective formed by EFLU alumni since the Kerala Floods of 2018, Dr Narayanan M Shankaran, Dr Reju George Mathew, Dr Abhilash VV, Dr Shyma P, Shibi Peter, Ajayan Babu and Bineesh soman have grouped together to offer help to these children who bear the harshest brunt of the digital divide. Ajayan Babu says, "The pandemic has destroyed the livelihoods of many families in Kerala. The worst affected are the tribal communities who depend solely on agricultural work and daily labour to make a living. The situation became worse when schools reopened and teachers started delivering classes online. Most of the children from these areas of the state have absolutely no access to the internet."
The project was introduced with the mission to donate a television set to the children of this ward. The Kattunayakar community is a forest dwelling tribal community that depends completely on the forest and its products for sustenance. And most of the farmers do not own land of their own, they work on somebody else's land and it depends on the season. Ajayan says, "We came to know about the state of the village through a few friends. With tourism also screeching to a halt, this community really needs our help. When we informed their ward member and tribal promoter that we were taking up this initiative, their joy was boundless."
Mullankolly is one of the most remote tribal villages in Wayanad. Currently, 140 families are settled in the region. The people of the village depend on free state-sponsored rations to survive. Although they have electricity, most of the necessary technology to navigate the modern world is yet to reach the village.
Ajayan says, "Our budget was for a Smart TV of Rupees 45,000. When we concluded the drive on June 12, we raised around 1,85,000. Thanks to this unexpected generosity, we are confident that our mission will not end here." The very next day, they travelled to Kasargod district where they distributed two more television sets in Vavadakkam tribal settlement colony in Bedadka Grama Panchayat and Ward 11 of Kuttikol Panchayath. They also made their way to Kollam on June 14 where two remaining televisions were donated to children in Arippa and Navayikulam villages.