In the news
Front page report ,Indian Express Jan 28 1999 by Kalathil Ramakrishnan
- Dr Nambiar
Peria(Mananthavadi),Jan27 : This school,surrounded by jungle-clad hills,was founded by Dr M P Appanu Nambiar, a retired university professor on May 18 1997, to impart good English education to the tribal children of Wayanad and dedicated to the memory of those who upheld and died for the tribal cause.
This should have been words inscribed on the school wall,but Appanu Nambiar,the bearded social activist who had spent his own money to set up the tribal school, was too unassuming a person to allow it.
The school has no such inscription, but the words tumbled out of his mind as he talked about the spirit and motivation behind this modest but novel venture.
The Pazhassiraja Tribal School, 22 km from Mananthavady, was set up by the Vanavasi Trust on 4.75 acres of land at Peria near historical site where the Kurichia warriors of Pazhassiraja defeated the Duke of Wellington two centuries ago.
The trust has seven members,including three tribals.The school,with thatched roof,imparts the three R’s to 119 tribal children in the area who otherwise would have been grazing cattle on the hills or gamboling in the fields.
Remarkably, the school gives prominence to teaching English which begins from the second standard.
“We have decided to give a firm footing to children in English because most of our students find it difficult to handle the language because of poor teaching in schools,” says Appanu Nambiar.
Dr Nambiar, a native of Taliparamba in Kannur district and chairman of the Vanavasi Trust was a self-made man.From being an elementary school teacherin the late sixties he became a high school teacher and then a college lecturer.
After a few years he was appointed as a university professor retiring as the head of B Ed Centre of the Calicut University in Kannur.
The Pazhassiraja Tribal School,enrolling Paniya and Kurichia children,has classes upto fifth standard from nursery onwards.besides having regular teachers,the school has specialised teachers who teach them drawing,clay-modelling.basket-making,tailoring,dance and even yoga.The services are mostly voluntary.the teachers most of them tribals,have no regular pay and are given only the expenses.
“My 36 years” experience as a teacher from elementary schools to the university promped me to start this venture,says Nambiar who had been associated with the revolutionary movement in Kannur district for a long period,undergoing imprisonment during national Emergency.
“We picked up the over-aged tribal children who have never been to any school before as well as the dropouts.So,by the time they reach the 10th standard,they would be able to write the examination as private students,says Nambiar who had also worked as teacher in Maldives.
The school provides free food and seperate hostel facilities for boys and girls.Teachers also stay with the children.Most of then tribal children are bright and they pick up English easily,says the teachers.
“We have been trying to generate our own income by cultivating paddy,tapioca,plantain and vegetables on the lands owned by the school,says Nambiar.The paddy is used for meals so also are the vegetables and plantains.
Firewood is procured by the children from the forest.They also do the winnowing,the parents do the planting and harvesting of paddy voluntarily.A cow donated by a well-wisher yields milk for the evening tea.
The institution gets no financial assistance from the Government because,according to rules,it would take three years before the school becomes eligible for any government grants,says Nambiar.
But financial help was forthcoming from the Vivekananda Girija Kalyana Kendram in B R Hills in Karnataka headed by well-known social activist Dr Sudarshan as well as from the Ramakrishna Mission and Kanhangad Ashram.
They Vyasa Vidyalaya in Palakkad had donated dress for the school children .Some philanthropists in the area also donate money.And yet the school is hard-pressed for funds.
The non-tribals and the minorities has 10 percent reservation in the school.But local Muslims withdrew their children alleging that the school was sponsored by the BJP and the RSS and it was nonsecular.
“It was a mistake belief,” says Nambiar.The Vanavasi Trust has nothing to do with any political party or social organisations and it is purely wedded to the cause of uplifting the tribals.