The Parijatham Sanctuary School, run by Krishnamurthy Foundation, is located in Kaligutta tribal hamlet, a settlement of Yanadis tribe located on the periphery of Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary. It is situated in Baireddipalle block of Chitoor district, Andhra Pradesh. With limited resources, Krishnamoorthy Foundation India (KFI-KEEP), which runs the school, has successfully facilitated formal education to the first-generation learners of Kaligutta. Currently 24 kids attend the school till noon (due to pandemic) under the guidance of Principal Jayapal and 2 other teachers.
For city dwellers, hearing such stories of nascent education may seem odd considering how our parents and elders have time and again stressed upon the importance of education. From the subjects and courses to pay attention to and maximizing one's potential with a fancy degree along with the financial possibilities it brought — opinions varied. But they all did have a say. And from all those discussions, some of us ended up making some sense and pursuing goals (often set subconsciously, thanks to an intermingling of many such opinions).
A student goes to school and reaps its benefits by acquiring a "modern" living, as is prescribed by the capitalistic ideology. We are the inheritors of this practice — which maybe our parents or even grandparents started for us —though it seems a little obsolete in the current scenario, with formal education and its consequences acting as more of a hindrance than a way forward. Yet, education has become an important milestone for every community irrespective of where they live. The Yanadis are no different. They aspire for their children to receive school education and earn a good living.
Parijatham Sanctuary School is a co-ed institution with grades from 1 to 5. Few graduates of the school among the Yanadis tribe in Kaligutta are even pursuing secondary/ higher education. They also volunteer as temporary teachers/guides for the budding ones of the school by mentoring them on life experiences away from the village. The school also engages with the elders of the community by imparting vocational skills and provision of language training. The importance of reading and writing the language used by the administration is absolute, for self reliance and for resilience. This is explained in the best possible manner with the help of the training.
The school, true to its name, acts as a sanctuary to the kids of Kaligutta, allowing them to explore their potential and possibilities in a world driven towards uniformity, wherein their inherent lifestyle has almost become obsolete. They get a chance to educate themselves, study further, maybe get a job, and earn a living. But most importantly, they are informed about the world they live in and are able to voice their aspirations, which previously may have been easily ignored.
As an Architect, I had the opportunity to work among the community. It was a little disheartening to see the way of life of the Yanadis changing with time. They have had to relocate from their settlements in the forest to the periphery, i.e. current village of Kaligutta. Their right to access the forest and its produce is also limited and regulated. The Architect in me was concerned by the fact that the villagers no longer build their homes in their traditional way. More so, because they also seemed to lack the necessary information to build — all consequences of constant changes to their lifestyle, as the general discourse of globalized living engulfs them as well. Hopefully, in times to come the tides will turn.
With the pandemic, people are recognizing the follies of urban lifestyle and its mindset, especially how the idea of literacy overshadows or deters the purpose of education in itself, and are looking at ruralscape for inspiration. Hopefully, the knowledge to sustain in the natural environment as the Yanadis did will get the recognition, respect and encouragement it deserves and can be holistically conserved in time.
About the author: Akash is an Architect, Eco-Natural Builder, Educator, and Researcher. He has spent time working with the Parijatham Sanctuary School on which this article is based. Currently he is an Architect at Uravu Studio, a multidisciplinary design-awareness collective, which functions with the intent to explore the possibilities of responsible and responsive living, through design. He is also a Tenure Faculty at Dayananda Sagar College of Architecture. All views are personal.