Workers from Dalit and Tribal communities, who are part of unions and cooperatives established with the assistance of UnionAID and NZEI Te Riu Roa, hold great aspirations for their children’s futures. They want their children to have the opportunity to choose their own future and not be trapped into caste-based occupations and poverty, as they have been.
The Dalit and Tribal Children’s Education Project, set up in 2014, has been confronting caste discrimination and poverty-based educational challenges in Tamil Nadu. The past year of the project has brought renewed hope for over 1000 children in these communities.
The project has established Evening Education Centres (EECs), operating six days a week from sixteen locations, aiding students with homework and reinforcing school teachings. The centres excel thanks to its trained tutors, often former students or graduates. During the 2022-23 year, no students dropped out, and an increasing number are planning further studies in higher education, breaking caste and socio-economic barriers.
The project has had a direct and meaningful impact on addressing discrimination and inequality faced by Dalit and Tribal Children. Teaching their history and culture is an important part of the curriculum with an emphasis on being proud of their history.
Gender equality is another achievement, with attendance almost evenly split between girls and boys, with girls at a slight majority of 54%. The lessons and teaching styles provide all children with the opportunity to learn about a variety of subjects and undertake activities and visits. This equitable environment has contributed to shifting perspectives on the equal treatment and capabilities of girls and boys
Monthly parent, tuition masters, and children meetings have also been a game changer, bringing groups together to discuss and work through areas like regular school attendance, extra-curricular activities, nutrition, hygiene, higher education, and socio-economic shifts that education can prompt.
Overall, the Evening Education Centres are helping in the fight against discrimination and inequality faced by Dalit and Tribal children in Tamil Nadu. By creating an inclusive learning environment and celebrating their history and culture, these centres are challenging the education gap these communities face at a national level. The project, in essence, is sowing the seeds for a brighter, more equal future for Dalit and Tribal children.