Help desk comes to the aid of tribal students

It is being run with the help of around 300 volunteers

The admission help desk run by Adi Shakthi Summer School, a collective of Adivasi and Dalit youths under the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, has facilitated undergraduate and postgraduate admissions for around 350 tribal students since its inception last year.

Even during normal times, securing admission for higher education was a herculean task for tribal youth, and it worsened last year when the admission procedures turned fully online.

“We used to hold summer camps for helping tribal youth with admission and giving orientation for selection of courses. The pandemic coupled with floods last year prompted us to launch the help desk,” said Mary Lydia, State coordinator, Adi Shakthi Summer School.

It is being run with the help of around 300 volunteers drawn from NSS volunteers, social work students, educated members from tribal communities, and academically-inclined youth from marginalised communities. The help desk remains swarmed with various problems thrown up by online admission procedures.

“For instance, with the payment of fee being system-driven, tribal students are also required to pay many fees, which they are actually exempted from. Our volunteers have to constantly contact the college authorities to resolve such problems,” said Ms. Lydia.

Tribal students pursuing higher education and volunteers working for them put forward a slew of demands to address the various bottlenecks in the admission process.

“The Tribal department should take initiative for ensuring fee exemption for tribal students and uniform admission process and fee structure. The department should also deploy liaison officers for interacting with college authorities, as help desk volunteers have little authority,” said Rejani P.V., a B.Ed student and vice chairperson, Adi Shakthi Summer School.

Tribal students also take umbrage at what they accuse as “unethical and unconstitutional” conversion of seats reserved for scheduled communities into general pool without giving adequate time for eligible candidates to claim them. This, they allege, is done in a non-transparent way, as vacant seats are publicised in media not accessible in deep-lying tribal areas. The proposed liaison officers should in coordination with tribal offices should ensure that the seats are claimed.

“New-generation courses should also be covered under e-grantz so as professional and aided courses introduced by individual educational institutions. Besides, accommodation and lodging assistance for tribal students should at least be doubled from the existing ₹3,500 and fund allocation for paying guest facility should also be made universal,” said Jishnu G., a BA Economics student.

(e-grantz is web-based solution for disbursement of educational assistance to all post-metric students of SC, ST, and OBC as well as economically weaker sections.)

Jagan Nandha, general secretary, Adi Shakthi Summer School, called for increasing the number of post-metric hostels for tribal students substantially. The girls hostel in Kochi should also be opened immediately.

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