Keonjhar: Tulasi Munda, a woman who never got to go to school herself, is leading the education revolution amongst tribals in Odisha. She set up a night school for the children of other tribals.
Being a little girl born at the cusp of freedom in the tribal belt of Odisha, her life was never going to be easy. Like thousands of other adivasi children in the mining town of Koenjhar, Tulasi didn't go to school. She sifted iron from the mineral rich soil for a just Rs 2 per month. It was her greed to learn, to study, to make something of herself that set Tulasi Munda apart form other child labourers.
It was the same desire that led a young fiesty Tulasi to follow Vinobha Bhavi and his Gandhian followers who would go village to village to address tribal problems. Inspired by the Gandhian ideology of Bhumidhan, 19-year-old Tulasi, approached the Gram Pradhan to lend her the use of a place of worship. She wanted to start a night school for the children of the tribals.
What started with a few toddlers 40 years ago, multiplied to a pool of 20,000. In addition to the Adiwasi Vikas school, Tulasi helped establish 16 other schools in areas that were destroyed by the mines. Currently she has over 500 students, almost half of whom are girls and her school provides education up to class 10. Thanks to their 'apa', the children of the school not just study there but also live in the campus and lead a meaningful life.
Keonjhar has been exploited by the rich for its mineral ore. Boys still grow up with lungs full of dust left behind by the trucks that have flattened their land. Apaji worries about the future.