India: educating tribal communities

The work of Vishwamandal Sevashram, a Jesuit social centre of the Bombay Province, assumes education to be an essential element of social transformation. Fr Godfrey D?Lima SJ has been working with the tribal or Adivasi communities at the foothills of the Satpuda Mountain Range in the state of Maharashtra in Central India. As he explains, these groups, remote and difficult to access, have to manage life on their own: schools seldom function, and even if they do, the life of the poor tribals does not permit them the luxury of regular attendance or perseverance beyond the first or second standards. ?Our organisation tries to set up learning centres whose content and curriculum are experimental – trying to make a relevant response to tribal needs. From education we work outwards into the community, promoting credit groups, organic farming, micro watersheds and health. Our budget being limited, we can organise only 25 centres annually with the help of semi-volunteers of the tribal community whom we train?. Women’s development gets special attention with the help of some Canossian Sisters. Fr D?Lima explains that it is necessary to continue developing education alternatives at the service of mass populations, a field of research and experimentation in which Jesuit educational structures as well as those promoting the social apostolate need to come together, since ?this creative convergence alone will open new structural possibilities for educational growth relevant to mass needs.? Organisations interested in building solidarities of effort for non-formal, alternative, mass-accessible educational models can get in touch with him at vishwamandal@sancharnet.in [HL50603]