28.05.2012

Breaking the vicious circle: Musahar children joining school beyond primary level


Manav Seva Sansthan (MSS), one of AWO International’s Indian partners, works with Musahar communities in the Maharajgunj District of north-eastern Uttar Pradesh since October 2009. The joint project of MSS and AWO International aims to enhance the Musahar communities’ “livelihood security through improved access to land entitlement and basic needs” (see also projects). In a nutshell, Musahars (literally: 'rat catchers') are a Hindu Scheduled Caste found in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and they are one of the most marginalized sections of society in India, mostly relying on daily wage labor works; the majority of them are without any productive assets and proper shelter. Most of the Musahars are living within the same vicious circle for centuries due to the lack of knowledge, education and awareness about who they are, what their rights are and how to achieve them. Even today, simply sending their children to school beyond the primary level is a matter of luxury for them. Through the AWO International supported programme in several Musahar communities, MSS was able to bring about some remarkable changes among the Musahars within a short period of time. The following is only a small example of these changes that have helped to break the vicious circle the Musahar communities are living in:

 

Educating their children beyond the primary school level is a luxury for most of the Musahars, since they simply cannot afford it. As a result of their project intervention MSS was contacted by the Chief District Officer of the Maharajgunj District who was concerned about a defunct residential school for Scheduled Tribes in the District and asked MSS to help out. In close coordination with the District Administration and with enormous help from the Musahar Community Based Organisations (CBOs) that had been established in the course of the project, MSS was able to enroll 24 Musahar children in the government school and to organize three daily meals for them. For many, this seems to be only a modest achievement, but in the absence of children from deserving communities, the well-equipped and adequately-funded government school was not functioning properly for the last 14 years. MSS, in consultation with the Musahar CBOs, is soon sending another batch of 36 Musahar children to the school. Due to MSS’ and the Musahar CBOs’ efforts in bridging the gap between the Musahars and the government initiated school, MSS has also been nominated to the District Monitoring Committee that oversees the functioning of the school along with the District Administration.