Dr. Appanu Nambiar is someone I know personally. Being the father of a close friend of mine has surely helped me to know him from close quarters. He was a teacher and principal at various government institutions in Kerala. Upon retirement from professional life, he decided to contribute to the society by serving one of the most backward and ignored community in Waynad, Kerala, India. In 1997, he thus started a school named Pazhassiraja school, with the primary intention to provide education and skill development for the Adivasi children. Adivasi is a collective term referring to a tribal community which form a significant portion of the aboriginal population of India. We all at some stage have had the intention and good will to contribute to the society. Having a thought is one thing, but to commit yourself into realizing by working through all the nuances;that is an entirely different thing. Inspirational, but now we should read on and act.
The history of his noble commitment goes like this. During the service as a principal at a neighboring college at Waynad, he happened to get a first hand glimpse of the plight the Adivasi community in Waynad go through. Without much financial or social support , he ventured his time and effort to help educating the children from the remote and an otherwise largely neglected section of society.
The school follows a system more like the Gurukula tradition, where in the teachers (guru) and supporting staffs live along with children in the same premise. To really understand the level of commitment he was getting into, we must first know some background on the tribal community, their social setup and the geographical position of the school itself. Waynad is a beautiful place located at the southern tip of the Western ghatt mountain terrain in south India. Waynad belong to the state of Kerala in India. While Kerala is considered socially way forward compared to many other states in India, Waynad is unfortunately one of the more ignored ones among the province of Kerala, in terms of outreach of several reforms including education and health. The lack of social development reach to the tribal areas also meant that basic education options went missing for the children. As a consequence, generation after generation they are deprived of a good standard of living and livelihood.
The hierarchy of this community is a bit more complicated than what we know from the outset. The adivasi tribes itself is classified into several sub-tribes or castes. The main ones are Adiyas, Kattunayakans, Kurichiyans,Kurumas,Ooralis, Paniyas and Uraali Kurumas. Some of them have slightly different physical characteristics (such as skin texture), but they are historically sectioned into different groups based on the profile of jobs they carried out. Each of these tribes follow social tradition and rituals of its own, while at the same time they collectively follow a generic form of social life including religious practice, marriage, art etc.,. Deforestation and general urbanization over the years meant that the traditional resources for these indigenous community is taken away. Instead of providing a needy hand, the society often found ways to exploit this tribe. For whatever reason, the tribal community has not yet been part of the mainstream society and that unfortunately spell disaster for their future.
As always, the biggest casualty in any crisis are the children. For them as well as the generations there on to survive, first thing to do is to make them capable of making a decent livelihood. Nambiar’s initiative is also with that modest goal; to empower some of them to deal with the realities of world around them as they grow up to youth and beyond. When a stream of youth can stand to survive and deal with a decent social life, the next thing will be to pave the way for better education and living opportunities for their children and so on. In a streamlined system, a wagon can roll. But the first step is to survive this great initiative and that needs a lot of support from well wishers like us. Remember, the grand from government is extremely limited and the untimely arrival makes compound the agony. Relentless effort from the great man along with support from many kind hearted people and organizations have helped the cause reaching this far. Now it has come to a point where surviving itself hinges on generous support. The time is now. A failure here, not only will stop the good work done. There is also an increased danger looming where some of these youths may break into verge of alcoholism and anti social activities, once they lose the confidence of a viable future ahead. Remember, these are extremely vulnerable section of a population and they can be easily trapped, once let go.
So, dear readers, if you plan to contribute to charity, please help this great cause. You can find the details on how to donate etc here. Any amount, however small it may be, will help its share.