Malapandaram living in the forests near the road to Sabarimala in southwest India are showing increased interest in sending their children to the tribal school in Attathode. According to a report published last week in The Hindu, Jayachandran, the headmaster, said that things are looking good since 37 students are expected for the opening of the new school year this coming week. The school opened with 50 students on June 1, 2015, before it got into trouble.

A tribal family at Attathode, probably Malapandaram
A tribal family at Attathode, probably Malapandaram (Photo by jaya8022 in Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license)

The school at Attathode will join all other primary schools in the state of Kerala in organizing a program at the beginning of the school year. Called the “Praveshanotsavom” by The Hindu or the “Pravesanolsavam” in many other sources, the program seeks to build interest in education among the children. Attathode, or Attathodu as some sources call it, is the second largest tribal settlement in Kerala. Of the 37 students currently enrolled in the school, Mr. Jayachandran said that about 60 percent—22 children—were Malapandaram.

The headmaster and the other three staff members planned to visit tribal families in the Attathode settlement before the school year begins to see if they can persuade more Malapandaram families to enroll their children in the school. They also planned to visit Malapandaram living in nearby forested areas, in the settlements of Nilackal, Chalakkayam, Pampa, Rajampara, and Laha, with the same goal in mind.

The Hindu reporter reviewed the history of the school last year. It opened to widespread optimism—and publicity—at the start of classes in June, but it quickly ran out of money and was threatened with closing. Then, the District Collector for the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala in which the Malapandaram settlements are located, Mr. S. Harikishore, intervened and found extra funds to keep the school open and operating.

The forest of the Pathanmthitta District near Chalakkayam
The forest of the Pathanmthitta District near Chalakkayam (Photo by rajaraman sundaram on Panoramio, Creative Commons license)

He arranged funding for a driver to operate a vehicle that would transport the children to school each day from their homes in the Sabarimala forests. He also arranged for government funding to give three meals to the kids in school every day.