India – quality education initiatives for tribal children

Education, development and health improvements for disadvantaged tribal communities

Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu


The Education and Skill Development program works to improve livelihood opportunities for 450 children aged 6-16 years in 15 tribal villages in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, through an integrated health, education and life skills program. The program also works with their parents and the wider community to improve standards of living.

The young people participating in this project are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds whose families include illiterate, unemployed, unwed mothers, widows, and people from dalit and tribal groups.

Kanchipuram District is mostly comprised of tribal villages in which an estimated 40% of adults are illiterate. The Irular people are a tribal group of approximately 155,000 people who live in the mountainous region of Tamil Nadu. They are isolated from mainstream Indian society geographically, linguistically, culturally and face discrimination based on caste.

Displaced from traditional hunting lands due to deforestation and urban encroachment, Irular people struggle to meet daily needs. Typically, they work in low-paid labouring jobs or are unemployed. Unskilled and with illiteracy rates of 34% (Census 2013) they face high levels of poverty and little opportunity to break this cycle. A 2008 report states 73% of Irular tribes live below the poverty line. Economic necessity has led to 46% of children dropping out of school early to work. [1]

They have faced several psycho-social-economic problems for last two decades. They suffer with absolute poverty, landlessness, malnutrition, discrimination and human rights violations, deprived of basic rights, unemployment and internal displacement with other people in society.

The 15 tribal villages in this project have been selected based on previous work. Five of the villages were incorporated into our existing 2016 project, 10 villages are new. All families live in thatched houses and endure poor living conditions. The children are first generation learners and do not have adequate facilities to study at home and the parents are generally illiterate.

The key outcomes of this project are:

  1. Improved education levels and life skills for 450 disadvantaged children
  2. Increased parental participation in children’s education, development and health
  3. Communities have improved standard of living (through increased community understanding of nutrition and health, human rights, women’s rights and by addressing the institutional barriers to equal opportunity).
  4. Community demonstrate improved gender equality
  5. IDT strengthen their capacity to implement projects.

The approach

The program follows a holistic development approach and focuses on children skill development through the involvement of parents groups, village development committee and public events. The main project activities are:

  • The establishment of 15 evening study centres to provide supplementary education and training to 450 tribal children aged 6 to 16 from the 15 villages, including on Tamil, English and maths.
  • The establishment of 15 children’s clubs to improve leadership skills; increase knowledge on child rights, gender equality, health and hygiene, life skills and the environment; and encourage village-level awareness raising activities on environmental protection.
  • The establishment of 15 parent’s groups to increase parent’s participation in their children’s education, development and health including through orientation on child rights, parental care, importance of education, nutrition and health, home gardens, gender equality and general government schemes and tribal welfare schemes.
  • Livelihoods training for 15 women each year to support household income generation to supplement family income and gradually contribute to tuition fees in the future.
  • The establishment of Village Development Committees (VDCs) in each village to represent village needs to Government and non-government agencies and to support all development activities in the village.
  • The establishment of village-level child protection committees in each village to promote child safety.
  • The project will have a particular focus on gender equality including training for men, women and children as well as ensuring the VDCs engage women and men in group discussion and decision-making.

Our partner

The project will be implemented by Assisi’s India partner Integrated Development Trust (IDT) based in Vadanallor. Over the past decade IDT has worked in the Vadanallor area to establish and support women’s self-help groups. These groups are now largely self-reliant. IDT has identified that disadvantaged children now require support.

Thank you to our supporters including Navitas Education Trust.






[1] > RJSSM: Volume: 03, Number: 02, June-2013 Page 141 Living Conditions of Irula Tribesin Gingee Taluk, Villupuram District of Tamil Nadu