Tribal Outreach Programme
In 2002 Goodwill Children's Homes began working with local communities supporting children in their own families through its Tribal Outreach Programme (TORP). Since then TORP has played an increasingly important role in its target 27 villages; particularly in the lives of the children and young people who are being helped to stay in school and further education.
In this hills area, there is widespread poverty and suffering, especially for the children of these mainly tribal communities. To halt the cycle of poverty, education is essential, but low expectation and poorly maintained schools have meant drop out rates are high, particularly in the primary sector.
TORP currently supports 27 villages and 13 schools in its target area, located around K.C.Patti Village at a height of 800 to 1,000 meters above sea level, in the middle and lower Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu, South India. The area is populated by Palayer and Pulayer Tribals, as well as low caste labouring and a few small farming communities. The majority of the target communities live in extreme poverty, without adequate shelter or basic facilities. During the monsoon and winter seasons, the climate is cold and damp for up to 5 months of the year.
Schools are often constructed by the community or in some cases donated by a local landowner; tin sheet roofing is usual and walls are made of semi fired mud bricks with cement plastering. Lack of maintenance funding means that the majority of these buildings are extremely run down; roofing sheets are rusted through, letting in rain during the monsoon season.
Lack of school toilet facilities leads to the children using the roadside and the vicinity immediately outside the school building, this and the lack clean drinking water in the schools affects the health of both the children and their teachers.
The aim is to improve retention of children in tribal and isolated rural schools in the lower and middle Palani hills area of the Southern Western Ghats, by enhancing teaching capacity, improving the classroom environment, providing basic sanitation facilities and a safe supply of drinking water.
The area is populated by tribal as well as low caste labourers and poor rural farming communities. Many of the villages and a number of schools are located within forest areas without road access; they are reached only on foot or on horseback. The isolation of the villages, dependence on agricultural work and low literacy has been a barrier to change.
Palayer or Pulayer Tribals are classed as Scheduled Tribes and Castes by the Indian government in recognition of the prejudice and lack of opportunity they experience. Few young men have completed school and most have dropped out before final examinations. Without any special skills, they become dependent for work on the coffee estates and spice plantations
Many of the children living in Goodwill’s residential homes come from TORP’s project area and Goodwill has been supporting orphan children from these communities within its residential care programme for many years.
Because Goodwill seeks to support health improvements in its target communities, TORP has worked closely with the staff of CF hospital’s Primary Health Centre (PHC) at KC Patti. This relationship has been vital as government primary care services do not reach these communities. Working together enhances the work of both organisations and enables effective joint services.
TORP’s community building at KC Patti was set up to promote need-based services to rural communities, and links need-based to educational institutions with a variety of expertise, as well as medical facilities, other NGOs and government departments.
The problems faced in isolated rural and tribal communities is that the amount provided by the state for school development is extremely small for this purpose.
The community are meant to be active participants in the maintenance and improvements made to the school and in towns and cities this has been successful; in these poor communities, people are unable to contribute financially.
Almost all the schools in these hills area are overcrowded and understaffed. Clean drinking water, toilets and blackboards are not provided and many children do not want to go to school as they don’t like the environment.
What does TORP do?
TORP supports and improves the schools by appointing supplementary teachers, painting the blackboards, providing teaching aids to schools and by lobbying Government officials and the local community for more classrooms. TORP has also built toilets and provided clean water sources and supply systems in schools.
Health problems of children or elders in the family are major factors contributing to high drop-out levels in schools. TORP organises medical camps, eye camps and doctor’s to visit villages regularly and gives financial support for treatment for serious problems. Lack of hygiene and sanitation facilities contribute to most health problems. Health awareness generation programmes and campaigns involving youth and young women in the villages are organised regularly.