How collective action in a village helped bring a school back to life.
A small village of 352 families of Karipatti in Salem district teaches us all the power of collective action.
When a well functioning government high school teaching 150+ children was demolished to dust because of a Four Lane National Highway plan, none of the authorities in the education department came in to protect the rights of the students of the school.
After much protest from the community, they were promised a new space within a year. However, for five years, children sat under the trees on the highway to learn. Without any safety, protection, toilets or drinking water, it was the sheer dedication of the students that helped them pull through.
The community decided to take matters in to their own hands. 28 petitions to various departments of the government including one to the Chief Minister’s Cell, seeking a sanction for a school building were sent. RTIs (Right To Information petitions) were also filed to enquire about the process, but there was no solution to the problem.
With patience running thin, the Children collective (Collective for Liberation) formed by CRY supported Salem People’s Trust (SPT) formed an action plan to get the school sanctioned. They petitioned to their Gram Sabha and with this approval of resolution, the Collective sent a petition to the Chief Minister’s Cell. Parallelly all other important groups were reached out to like the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and media.
Within a few months, they received a response from the education department and a compound wall was built around the trees in a bid to protect the children on the highway. With no further progress, the Children’s Collective along with the SPT team wrote a petition to the Prime Minister copying the Chief Minister and Education Minister. Media’s impact of the advocacy added to the pressure.
Finally on the demand of the children, the education department convened a meeting with the community and chose a suitable land for the construction of school. A land just 1 km away from the village was identified and the construction of school completed within a year! The school has started functioning and all the children in the area access the school drastically the ill-effects of ‘school dropout’.
With sustained efforts of CRY, the project team from SPT, the Children’s Collective and the community, the door to 150 children’s dreams is still open!
Salem People’s Trust is a project supported by CRY – Child Rights and You and Genius Consultants Ltd.