One man’s initiative to empower Dalit children with education for a better and respected living has changed the scenario in the Palakkad district of Kerala. A student of NSS Engineering College back in the 1990s, C. D. Sajith Kumar (46) used to live in a rented house in Kongappadam village, which was next to a Dalit Colony. To his surprise, he realized there was not a single person who went for higher education.
Kumar, who is now a mechanical engineer in Qatar returned to Palakkad in 2013 for an alumni meet and was taken aback to see that so little had changed and that many children opt to drop out after Class X.
“Despite the college being a mere half kilometer away, most youngsters didn’t finish school. They toiled in nearby farms or did odd jobs in Palakkad town,” Kumar told to Indian Express.
To change this scenario, he launched ‘Ente Kongappadam (My Kongappadam),’ a free educational empowerment programme in 2013 and gave tuitions to children from the area who were in primary classes. He even asked NSS Engineering College students to volunteer as teachers and started morning and evening classes at an Anganwadi in the colony.
There is also a documentary titled “Ente Kongappadam,” by Rupesh Kumar, which captures the implementation of a socially constructed education planning system for children in a Dalit colony in Palakkad district.
Watch the video here:
While talking to Indian Express, 17-year-old Sini K who has enrolled for his degree course this year says, “Earlier, we had no culture of studying at home. We would come home from school and help our parents in the fields or sit around doing nothing. Now, we all spend a few hours studying at home.”
I spoke to the parents and convinced them that it was important for their children to study because besides being eligible for jobs, it was the only way they could fight social isolation – Kumar further added.
His initiative has helped 38 students to pursue education beyond Class X, three students now pursuing their undergraduate courses and two more are set to join this year.
Following the success of Kumar’s education initiative, the state government is planning to implement this initiative in five other Dalit settlements.