Retaining and strengthening tribal knowledge through education, with a curriculum in tune with tribal culture that meets literacy requirements at the elementary level

SAMATA is a community-based organisation founded in 1990. Samata was established as a non-governmental organisation that focuses on advocacy and development issues among tribal communities in Andra Pradesh. Samata helps address problems of land alienation, displacement, and disempowerment. Its mission is to uphold the constitutional rights of the tribal people.

Samata earned its reputation as an organisation for Advocacy and Support for tribal and environmental protection, when in July 1997 a three judge-bench delivered its final verdict in the Supreme Court of India declaring all lands leased by the government to private mining companies in tribal or ‘V’ schedule areas were null and void. And hence, ‘Samata Judgement’ was passed.


SAMATA and its Education wing

Tribal students in remote communities are among the most educationally disadvantaged worldwide and often do not reap the full benefits of education at all. Many live in poverty and are subject to harsh conditions, and lack of education increases the likelihood of remaining trapped in these circumstances. Even if children attend school this cannot guarantee that they will be enriched by education. Education is the result of learning, and learning occurs most effectively when it is responsive to children’s mother tongue.

Balamitra Residential School is a Waldorf-inspired school located in Dabanda Village, 24 kms from Vishakapattanam. With the idea of retaining and strengthening tribal knowledge through education, a curriculum in tune with tribal culture that meets literacy requirements at the elementary level was developed. Samata considers Waldorf pedagogy as very compatible with the traditional way of transmitting knowledge via play, music, dance, art and practical orientation. Both share similar holistic approaches to education and life.

Balamitra is fortunate to have a corps of volunteers who donate their time, energy, expertise and guidance in many diverse ways. We feel this type of cultural exchange is enriching for the children, as they learn how to interact as equals, and share and learn from each other.

Balamitra school is also a resource centre for producing and distributing various educational materials such as: Traditional agricultural, cooking, hunting and architectural practices and Tribal games, stories, festivals, musical instruments, proverbs and astrology. Children here, with the support of teachers and volunteers, also develop CDs and books composed of tribal songs, dance, art and crafts.

Indigenous scientific practices and knowledge are dying out due to lack of recognition. Balamitra draws attention to strengthening and protecting this wisdom possessed by the tribals. In the current context of the global environment and climate change, there is an urgency to promote indigenous traditional knowledge to protect our ecosystems and prevent climate change.

These materials will be distributed to our visitors from neighbouring communities, rural and urban friends on special occasions like the School Annual Day. Additionally these materials will also be shared with our partners, enabling them to understand the value of indigenous knowledge for the protection of our natural resources and environmental conservation. Such an approach can inspire positive change and help pave the way towards policies for ecological equity, in which, social justice and human rights become an integral component of environmental justice. 


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