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  • Malappuram’s daredevil teacher and tribal reformer

    For Shajina P, teacher at a government-run school in Kerala, trekking through dense forests and braving herds of elephants are all part of the job

    In Kerala’s Malappuram district, 24-year-old Shajina P has mastered the art of multi-tasking. She’s the only faculty member of a single-teacher alternative school for tribal children. She is medical adviser to the local community. And she’s a liaison between the tribals and local welfare department officials.

    Shajina, who earns a paltry Rs 2,000 a month for her efforts, has to trek 26 km every day through the forests to the Ampumala tribal colony. Labourers from the nearby Arayad rubber estate in Mooleppadam -- the last bus stop before the colony -- call out to Shajina as she walks past, occasionally warning her of elephant sightings in the vicinity.

    Shajina’s duties begin with a visit to the homes of the Paniya tribal families where she coaxes 22 students, between the ages of 5 and 14, to attend classes in the thatched hut nearby. After singing their prayers, Shajina cooks the children’s mid-day meal. She sometimes holds classes out of doors, at a nearby stream. “The children are happiest in the midst of nature,” she says.

    Shajina acts as medical adviser to the colony’s 30 families. She stocks basic medicines supplied to her by the Nilambur Government Hospital in the schoolroom, which is where she also administers them. The young girl is also a link between the illiterate tribals and the tribal welfare department. She uses her contacts with social service organisations in Nilambur to get extra supplies of rice, lentils and clothes for the children. Of late she has been pushing hard for a sturdy school building.

    Source: The Week, February 22, 2004

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