Guwahati (Assam), Aug.18 : Insurgent activities in the northeastern states have severely affected education, leading many children to dropout.
However, social entrepreneurs like Father K.A. Thomas have not given up hope and taken it up as a mission to bring these dropouts back into school. A Salesian (the Salesian Society, officially named the Society of St. Francis de Sales) priest hailing from Assam, Father Thomas has been working for the upliftment of the Mishing tribe.
In over two decades, the 'Institution for Culture and Rural Development (I-CARD) has set-up seven training centres in five districts of Upper Assam.
Father Thomas has so far mobilised over 500 villages, and founded around 480 youth groups for community development.
Recently, he was honoured with the 'Jewel of India' Award for his outstanding achievements by the International Institute of Education and Management (IIEM), New Delhi.
On the same occasion, the New Delhi-based Indian Solidarity Council presented him with the 'Vijay Rattan Gold Medal Award' and a 'Certificate of Excellence' for his relentless quest to uplift rural village dropouts in Assam.
This founder-director of the Institution for Culture and Rural Development says, "Our work is from grassroots.
We are not working with the high elite people of the tribe. We are living with the grassroots. We selected school dropouts of 20 of them every year since 2002 and giving them capacity building skill trainings in different things such as into stage acting, theatre, singing, dancing, community development and cultural aspects.
We also take these school dropouts for three months to Assam Agriculture University, In forest Research Institute and other institutes in Jorhat which are prestigious to give them a sense of confidence." Father Thomas has trained nearly 1,000 school dropouts to become agents of social transformation and community development.
Around 50 dropout youngsters, who were trained in I-CARD, have government and private firm jobs. To preserve and promote the Mishing tribe of Assam, the Salesian priest has also set-up two weaving centres and also trained youngsters in traditional weaving.
Gam Payeng, a dropout and now working in I-CARD, said, "After passing 10th class, I dropped out from school since I couldn't go for further studies.
I was staying in the village just like that without any hopes and plans for the coming future. But after coming here, I have gain not only confidence in life but also learnt what to do and how to plan out for future and responsibilities of life.
Now, I am working with I-Card with all the knowledge I've gained from here." I-Card has become the one-stop-resource centre for the Mishing Tribe.
The beautiful cultural campus is fast becoming an attraction for national and international researchers.