BALA MANIKANDAN C (in BLOCK letters, in English) came up a couple of days ago, for help with filling a form for “Teacher Training”.He is the only student from Valagapattu to have written the XII std exam this year and he passed with just over 50% marks.

What and how he will teach, were he to qualify, is worrisome, but a different issue.

Here, we would like to focus on a society in transition. Like we have said earlier, these people were a self reliant community up until 30 years ago. They are tribals (Scheduled: Malayali tribe), there is no caste in their villages, everyone has land, people by and large have enough to eat. There is no destitution or beggary.

Then why are they poor? Perhaps because they do not have TVs , refrigerators, fancy clothes: All the stuff they watch on TV (There is a “Panchayat” TV in every village) leads them to believe themselves poor.

Their natural dignity takes a beating when they are ill-treated by the Government Officials, and cheated by the middlemen and brokers.

Boys like Balamanikandan dream of an escape from all this by becoming a teacher in the Government School set up. This would mean an assured salary and no “slogging it out” in the rain or sun.

The reality is however that it it is a lottery with the dice loaded against first generation learners all the way. It is possible (actually probable) that after all his studying, he will not get a job, and be “neither here nor there”.

We know some such boys: They are unskilled in the things that their fathers are expert. They are schooled and hence do not pick up the techniques of ploughing, weeding, sowing and the hundred other tricks-of-the-trade.And, what farm-schooled children have: the stamina to work outdoors for long stretches, the ease with which they use their bodies; these school-schooled children lack altogether.

So they try things like Tailoring in Tiruppur or Auto-driving in Coimbatore. Their land lies fallow up here: They are tempted to sell it (to their stay-at-home cousins, which is perhaps still acceptable, or sometimes to outsiders which creates a whole new set of problems for the community) and move permanently to the city.

And where do they then live? Not among their native fields with their cows and goats close at hand, but in the slums of the city. And then what chance do their children have? It takes just one generation to lose the skills and knowledge accumulated over generations.

The Slum-dwellers in the city have names, and their names are Kolandaian and Govindraj and Boochi and perhaps, though we hope not (fingers crossed): Balamanikandan.


3 Responses to “Balamanikandan”

  1. Sunny Meeta Says:

    Development its called! De-skilling is preferred to de-schooling!

  2. Rahul Basu Says:

    It also takes just one generation to get out of poverty by getting an education and a reasonable and paying job. Believe me, it’s literally true of one of my colleagues, who is now a faculty member here at our institute.

    Let’s not always bash formal education, schooling, cities and the like. There may be much that is wrong with them, but there is much by way of opportunity that these routes provide. Let’s not forget this.

  3. sunder and sonati Says:

    Our point was that people here who are well-off (rurally) are being driven into (urban)poverty, by the lure of the city/education/jobs/whatever.

    Moreover, the getting out of poverty, is surely a lottery where the odds are stacked against first generation learners. For every one that makes it, there will be many who fall by the wayside BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE SYSTEM IS.

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