Located in East Godavari’s Maddibanda, the school aims to provide primary education to the children of the Kondareddys, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.

Officer Ramana posing with the tribal residents during the inauguration of The Hill Top Eco School in Maddibanda of ChinturuAll images: TNM Special arrangement
Features Education Tuesday, December 29, 2020 - 12:06

“While I’m posted here, I thought of visiting each of these hilltop hamlets to know the residents and their problems. I visited them during an outreach drive two months ago and learnt that they don’t have access to education due to various reasons,” says Venkata Ramana Akula, the officer who set up The Hill Top Eco School in the tribal interiors of the Eastern Ghats in Chinturu, East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

Located in Maddibanda, the school aims to provide primary education to the children of the Kondareddys, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), in the hilltop villages of Edugurrlapally, Vegisagandi, Sadrai and others.

Ramana is the Project Officer of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) in Chinturu. When he informed the authorities of his plans to visit the hilltop hamlets, which are located in the dense forests that border Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, the police even cautioned him citing security reasons, as the area is known for Maoist activities.

Ramana’s Kondabata (the outreach programme devised by the officer meaning ‘path to the hills’) involved trekking several kilometres through hills and forests with tens of staff and security detail. Following his visit and interactions with the Adivasis, he sought a survey on school age children in 21 hilltop Kondareddy hamlets. It was found that there are 167 families with 80 school age children (05-15 years), out of which around 50 had never been to school while some others had dropped out from tribal welfare residential schools.

Ramana then interacted with the parents and told them about the advantages education would give their children. “I had multiple meetings with the families to convince them about starting the community school. I told them they’d be cheated by vendors when they go to the market (santha) to sell their forest produce if their children remain uneducated. As I went there personally and talked to them, they were convinced and agreed to starting the school,” he says.

The Hill Top Eco School is completely community built using mud, bamboo and other locally available materials, and can cater to over 50 children. Presently it has a total of 26 students. The remaining students will be joining the school shortly. “The design and style were left to the tribals because it’s their school for their children. Also, as it’s a hilly area, a concrete construction was impossible,” Ramana explains.

The officer adds, “Since the school was built by the community, they have a sense of ownership. We will develop it further as time goes.”

The school was ready within weeks. Apart from a teacher, a community woman matron who takes care of the children’s meals and monitors the school was appointed. The school is now abuzz with academic activities ranging from rhymes to basic maths taught using creative learning methods.

Ramana says the children will be taught basic reading, writing and mathematics, and put through a bridge course before they are enrolled into formal school education.

The school will soon get an artistic and cultural makeover befitting the community’s interests and culture.

As the students have already caught up with studies, Ramana is now planning to set up a livelihood support centre which will help the local people in skill development as well as teach them about marketing and selling forest produce.

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