The views are of the author not of The Sikkim Chronicle.
By Anuvishub Sanjay Tamang is an essayist, fiction writer, and student of postcolonial studies based in Darjeeling
Throughout history, the tribal/Adivasi people have suffered greatly due to colonization and have proved to be sitting ducks among the majority.
Prior to proximity, Indigenous people had and still relevant self-governing and education systems that were hardly moved and taught outside the tribal clan. With the decline of the brawny-buffalo, Indigenous people saw education as a way toward building a new future; however, the education that has been received has cause multi-generational trauma and forced assimilation that meant severe losses that could hardly be rebuilt as the losses and deprivation of erosion are ‘permanent’.
There are more than 600 distinct indigenous people in India, and there is enormous diversity among communities of tribal/Adivasi people, each of which has its own distinct culture, language, history, and unique way of life. Despite the vast differences between Indigenous populations across India, they experience similar struggles. These include access to their traditional lands and recognition of their rights, including the right to practice their cultures, to speak their languages, and to engage in traditional economies and political systems, among other rights. It is well known that the problems faced by the tribal people are by and large similar. They suffer from the consequences of historic injustice, including colonization, dispossession of the lands, territories and resources, oppression and discrimination, as well as lack of control over their ways of life. Their right to development has been largely denied by colonial and modern states in the pursuit of economic growth.
The tribal people are also bound by the common experience of being “discovered” and subjected to colonial expansion into their territories that has led to the loss of an incalculable number of lives and millions and millions of acres of land and resources. The most basic rights of tribal people are still disregarded, and they were subjected to a series of policies that were designed to dispossess them of their land and resources and assimilate them into colonial society and culture. Too often the policies resulted in poverty, high infant mortality, rampant unemployment, and substance abuse, with all its attendant problems.
As the colonial education system hugely taught to distrust and doubt tribal knowledge systems, the elders’ wisdom and knowledge that were developed with ancestral inner learning spirit that were and had been in practice since centuries, with its rise of colonial education the downfall of Indigenous educational system was the most relevant thing to see at the point. Tribal people at those times hardly gave importance to its downfall and nor tried their best to uplift the fallen tree, better people moved into the newly formed colonial system that was accepted and encouraged by the crowd.
The current educational systems, which favour ethnocentric thinking and are positioned in a Euro-centric model, a fashionable concept these days, and it is on everybody’s lips, are not supporting Indigenous students as well as their non-Indigenous counterparts. The education of tribal people has been detrimental throughout history. Decolonizing the current system for tribal students and striving for restitution is a need.
Decolonization of the current model is imperative, it is essential for change. It is a right of tribal people that an education systems must be culturally responsive, ready for all learners, and strives for equity with no place and space for discrimination. Current educational policies need substantive reform.
Central to this process is the rejection of the racism inherent to colonial systems of education, and the repositioning of tribal/Adivasis humanities, sciences, and languages as vital fields of knowledge. Decolonizing education means rebuilding a school system that supports all students, staff, and teachers. A system that puts forth the needs of all students and is responsive to the particular needs of each and every child.
Currently, indigenous-Tribal and Dalit students are at a disadvantage in our education system. This is due to decades of neglect from the highest points of our education system. We need to provide space for more representation in all aspects of the system. Whether that be in government advocating for progressive Equity based policy, to teachers of colour in the classroom who look and represent the ever-growing diverse populations in our school buildings. Education is supposed to be for everyone, why make it more difficult for some to receive it over others due to ethnicity. Building an equitable system will open up a better environment to attract and retain teachers of colour in the workforce, therefore, we’ll have more diversity in classrooms that actually represent the students they serve. That can provide the knowledge to speak on the history and present-day culture within education.
In order to begin to decolonize education, we need to have an open dialogue on caste/race/racism and bias to start to change the system as a whole. Everyone deserves a fair chance and a great education despite ethnicity, caste , and income. Until our education system is changed, we will not achieve success for every student.