Schooling Kills : Adivasis fate in residential school system


By : Rajaraman Sundaresan

Nelson Mandela, the great anti-apartheid revolutionary once remarked that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. True to his sense, education in many ways is being enacted as a powerful tool for social transformation and emancipation. Today education is a fundamental right of every citizen under the Indian constitution.  But, is education always transformative and emancipatory? Or does it lead us to think and act in a systematic and symmetric way?

A Foucauldian analysis of the history of education might show us a completely different picture of its purpose and politics. Yet, the sanctity and sacredness of education remains unquestioned by various scholars, so called experts and subsequent governments. Schools as legitimate entities for education have proven to be contradictory in the very way it violates childhood and increases the sense of dependency on government structures and market driven forces.

Since the Colonial rule, schools as institutions have enacted a monopoly over the process of education. In fact, it has made us look today as if, there would be no education without schools. Is school, the only, centre for education? Or is there different ways of looking at the process of education?

It is this very notion of education through schooling that has to be fundamentally challenged before schools as institutions engulf the idea of education as a whole. Because, to a certain extent, one of the greatest things that schools as official institutions of education has monopolised is the process of learning. Schools, over the centuries has forced upon children a particular process of learning that does not allow them to think critically and culturally. In many ways, schools have become institutions which are directly or indirectly affiliated to certain political interference and so there seems to be a large reluctancy in adopting diverse learning systems across curriculums.

Enter History

Historically, schools have been institutions which have selectively experimented various ways to discipline and promote monolithic thoughts into young minds. In many ways schooling becomes a larger embodiment of what happens in a scientific laboratory where curriculum as the metaphor of variable is experimented over the young impressionable minds. The need to look at the process of schooling as a scientific experiment of the state and other forces of oppression has never become more important than now.

Schooling as a scientific process involves categorization and compartmentalization of minds which on a whole breaks the larger way of looking at life in an inter-connected sense. In fact, to a certain sense the categorization in the schooling process represents a periodic table in a chemistry class where children are systematically alienated and segregated according to their age groups, caste, gender and what not.

The modern day process of schooling has in fact,a unanimous acceptance in alienating the children from their homes completely by accepting the residential mode of schooling process.

The Science of Schooling

Schooling as a scientific experiment of the state, which has now been taken over by market forces needs a critical analysis in terms of the very aesthetic structures on which a so called school functions. Historically, Schools as institutions of education have displaced more number of people than all of the development projects put-together. Yes, education when seen, under the garb of schooling displaces young children from their community, values and thoughts. Displacement in education needs to seen at three levels.

Let us take the example of a young Dongria Kondh child being put into a residential school for the purpose of education.

The first violation that residential school education does is to separate the child from his parents and community and put him under the illusion of what we call independence. How can one be independent without his community? From what are we seeking independence from?

The second violation that a residential schooling process of education does is to alienate the child from his land, which primarily was his/her own aesthetic space of learning his/her own community values, traditions and knowledge which in every way is inter-connected to the tribe’s/communities life, lifestyle, livelihood and lifecycle. The residential schooling process creates an illusionary atmosphere of learning strictly within its own conditions, like the very way an experiment is conducted in a laboratory keeping certain variables as constants. But, who decides which the variable is and which is the constant?

The third violation that any process of schooling on whole does is to propagate the myth of development through education. And it is within this ambit of development that education tries to over-emphasize the role of science in seeking the truth. What experts have to understand is that science is one of the many ways of thinking and not the thought as a whole in itself.

Truth has many sides and it certainly depends upon the context and the frame through which one thinks. Adding the logic of development into education we are not only seeing a rise of epistemic fascism, but are also witnessing the slow erasure of memories in various thinking processes.  In one of way or the other, the aspiration of development propagated through education is destroying various thought processes that science does not agree to and this is precisely what the Portuguese legal philosopher Boaventura de Sausa Santos calls epistemicide- The death of knowledge systems. Then, how does one account schools which are responsible for epistemicide in the name of education?

The fate of a tribe

For a Dongria Child, the schooling process not only displaces him of the community and the land but also displaces him from his own way of seeking truth i.e through nature. This three modes of displacement through schooling plus education is what I call the triple death phenomenon. A Dongaria child has to die thrice as he undergoes the rite of passage through the process of schooling for education.

It is then, the purity of new-self emerges with the child who can be called as a mainstream citizen who no longer has an identity except being a part of the countless number of statistics that we consider as important for showcasing progress and development.

And it is this creation of the new-self that most Asharam Shala’s and residential schooling models are carrying out under the disguised name of education plus schooling. The recent move of the Narendra Modi government to privatize the residential tribal schools especially in Maharastra has an over-whelming logic which is being silently executed as more and more young children and their parents are being trapped and discriminated under the name of education for development.

(The author is a social science mimic. He is currently working with Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, Bhubaneswar, India, and the largest residential school for tribal children in the world. His research areas include science and knowledge studies.)

Image : Adivasi Residential School. (courtesy –


Editorial Team of Adivasi Resurgence.

3 thoughts on “Schooling Kills : Adivasis fate in residential school system

  • February 20, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Absolutely brilliant article. There should be a national debate about this as it lies at the very heart of the problem of democracy and development.

  • February 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I find myself disagreeing in parts to the views espoused. The same applies to all residential schooling – issues being of course more multidimensional for children from adivasi communities. Fortunately or unfortunately, education today is also a process of building networks and collegiality. It would be good if the author or others examine the rich data that must be available with residential schools – particularly widely celebrated ones- on their alumni and their experience in the real world. They would perhaps represent an important voice in this discussion.

    • February 22, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      @Vartika I think here article is not about success since everyone have their on reservation on its index.but important here is intension of the education. Are we seeing education system through banking approach where one must invest to get something out of it?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *