Odisha is home to several aboriginal tribes. Foremost among them is the Juang community which is part of the Munda ethnic group. The Juangs consider themselves true aborigines and distinct from other primitive tribes such as the Santhals or Hos. They mostly live in Keonjhar district and are skilled in making baskets and other bamboo-based artifacts.
Essar Foundation runs a residential school in the remote Telkoi block in Keonjhar. The Ramadevi Adarsha Bidya Niketan provides free education and helps develop life skills in 70 children from the Juang community. The children are in the age group of 4-12 years and belong to extremely poor families. Some of the children are raised by relatives who struggle to provide for them with their meagre incomes. The school is run in association with a local NGO, the Ramadevi Village Development Organisation. The NGO was set up by Tulasi Munda, a renowned tribal woman leader.
Ms Parvati Parida, one of the school teachers says, “Our caretakers and teachers work closely with these children to impart life skills, healthy sanitary habits and language competency. The children are encouraged to perform daily chores like grooming themselves, keeping their surroundings clean and growing vegetables. More importantly, they are provided with mainstream education in a clean and safe environment. The community here believes in the school’s vision and hopes that these children’s futures will be secured through the education and care they receive and truly deserve.”