While on my favourite backpacking trip around Hampi -> Yellapur -> Gokarna in south India which happens usually once a year in January. While we were in the Indo-African Siddi tribal village in the forest of Yellapur. I spotted three kids sitting near the water reservoir of the village with grumpy faces.
They had been sitting there for a good 15 minutes or so, without uttering a word to each other. After waiting another five minutes, I walked up to them with a few chocolates. All three just stared at my hands without saying a word and did not seem to react at all.
For the first time, my idea of offering kids chocolates in a tribal village had seemed to backfire. So I sat down with them and tried to get to know their names. The boy with a faint but grumpy voice said, his name was James. The one to his right was his sister Jennifer and the other girl was Mary, a friend who lived next door.
Since, I got their names and had finally managed to get them to talk; I went on to ask James why he and the two pretty young ladies were looking so upset. He replied back saying, it’s a Monday and he hates going to school. Something which all of us can relate too. Monday blues as it’s called in the corporate world.
I offered them toffees a second time. This time since we were all friends now, they took them but there was still no smile. The answer I got for my next question to them, kind of surprised me. So when I asked them, why they did not like going to school, for the first time all three replied back. They said in a loud tone, “We hate studying. If we go to school we will have to leave the village.”
The answer really got me thinking, what they meant. Later after talking to the village school teacher, I got to know that the school in the village is only till the fourth grade. If the kids wanted to get educated beyond that, they have to leave the village and live in a boarding school. Many of the older kids from the village are studying there. However, they have been complaining of being homesick as well as of lack of proper facilities.
These Siddi kids love to play, run around in the paddy fields and seem to be very bright. But the fact that they have to leave their homes and live outside at such an early age, just to get a so-called ‘better education’ is what has already started to strike fear in their hearts.
How I wish that every village in our country has a fully functional higher secondary school. So that no kid is forced to leave his or her village before the age of 16.
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