High on education

Your Education is Our World

One year after it began, India’s first tribal university continues to battle bureaucratic delays and local politics

When Chandra Dev Singh was asked where he would stay in Amarkantak, a remote tribal town in Madhya Pradesh, the immediate answer that occurred to him was: “A tent.”

That was in August 2008. The university he was going to launch in the town located on the border of Chhattisgarh did not have any official land allotted, no administrative staff, teachers, or even students. Yet it was, by all official pronouncements, India’s first central university for tribals, being launched to promote education and research among tribal communities.

Chamru Singh Banjara of the Baiga community studies by the light of an oil lamp at his cousin’s hut, where he lives. Difficulties with his eyesight prevent Banjara from studying at night, and he can’t afford a doctor’s fees.

A year on, Singh prefers to focus on the triumphs rather than the challenges he faced when launching Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU). Half of the university’s 282 students are tribals from the neighbouring remote villages, and the university has a good record of marks and attendance despite several operational hurdles.

“We are getting somewhere. There are no regrets,” he says, pointing to a full classroom.

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