Research Radio Ep 17: Can social movements change power relations in education systems?

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Two decades ago, a survey found that only about one in four Adivasis in the city of Gudalur in Tamil Nadu was literate, and the rate among women was even worse. Enrollment of Adivasi students in public special schools was extremely low and school conditions were far from adequate. “Non-Adivasi teachers and staff showed little empathy or interest in Adivasi children,” write the three guests in today’s episode. This grim image has transformed in a much deeper way than the brush stroke stats I just shared. We are going to discover the history of this transformation.

An academic and two educators join us today on Research Radio. Amman Madan studied anthropology and currently teaches at Azim Premji University in Bangalore. Dr. Madan works to promote dialogue and justice through education. Rama Sastry is a passionate teacher who has been teaching marginalized children for four decades. B Ramdas has also been in the field of education for four decades and along with Rama is a Trustee of Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust, Gudalur, Nilgiris.

Before I hear from them, a bit more background: Rama and Ramdas, along with their colleagues, worked to actualize the transformative potential of education for Adivasi students in the Nilgiri town of Gudalur. The city is home to five Adivasi communities: the Paniyas, the Bettukurumbas, the Mullukurumbas, the Kattunayakas and the Irulas. They constitute about 10% of the population of Gudalur. And we will learn more about their school career thanks to their article: “Social Movements and Educational Change: A Case Study of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam.

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