How education came to the Badagas 160 years ago !

How education came to the Badagas 160 years ago !

Dharmalingam Venugopal
[Nilgiris Documentation Centre, Kotagiri]

160 years ago an enthusiastic Tahsildar took the initiative to educate the Badagas. He recommended four schools in different villages of  the Nilgiris as the Badaga children could not  travel to Ooty to join school. The then Government of the Madras Presidency made a special recommendation as such a proposal was outside the prevailing educational policy of the country. The Government of India made an exception to its general educational policy to sanction four schools. The decision which had to travel over a distance of more than 250 kms from Ooty to Madras to Delhi and back was made within 6 months !!!.

25th April, 1856 : Mr. M. Soondra Moodelly, Tahsildar of Neilgherry Talook writes to Mr.E.B.Thomas, Collector of Coimbatore rcommending starting of schools in Tuneri, Adhikarati and Kaligherry(?).

The monigars and respectable inhabitants of the various villages of Todanad, Parungnad and Maiknad report to me that their children are illiterate and ignorant from want of schools to teach them in their villages….It appears to me that the want of any schools in the Burgher villages in the chief cause of the ignorance of the Burgher monigars and of the children of the all the Burghers in general; and it is therefore highly desirable that such charitable institutions should be established on these hills and three efficient teachers appointed on a pay of about 7 to 10 rupees each. The Burghers are now ignorant of any written characters and are unable to speak anything but ‘Canarese’. They are desirous of learning Tamil, the vernacular language of the whole district and I hope that by imparting to them Tamil language they will improve themselves. I request that the application for the establishment of schools may be sanctioned.

15 May, 1856: Collector E.B.Thomas  writes to J.D. Bourdillon, Secretary to Government, Fort St George.

I enclose a true translate of an application from the energetic and intelligent tahsildar of the Neilgherries. I know his representations to be correct and his efforts to improve the people are very laudable. I would request  that if the Government think right, the small allowance asked, three schools at 10 rupees each or 30 rupees with 50 more for books and a few school necessaries of the plainest kind ( paper, a few slates, mats to sit on, pencils etc) may be granted by the Director of Public Instructions.

30 September, 1856:  A.J. Arbuthnot, Director of Public Instruction recommends to Chief Secretary to Government, Fort St George

I have the honor to report, for the information of the Right Honorable the Governor in Council, that I have visited the several villages selected by the tahsildar of the Neilgherries for the establishment of the projected schools, and have made such enquires as seemed necessary with the view of ascertaining how the project is like to succeed. I have no hesitation in recommending that the experiment should be tried.

The tahsildar originally proposed three schools. He has since suggested a fourth near Kotagherry for which the tahsildar recommended the village of Thandanad but another site near Dimhutty appears to me to be more centrical.

Such books as are required can be supplied from the depot attached to my office and the special grant of 50 rupees will not be required. A grant, however, will be required in each case to provide a school house. It should be one of the chief objects of the schools to inculcate habits of cleanliness and with this view it is necessary that the school houses should be somewhat superior to the low, ill-ventilated huts in which the Badagas live. The Badagas have promised to give their labour in erecting the school buildings..

From the enquires I have made I see every reason to hope that the Badagas have begun to feel some desire for the advantages of instruction. Whether any of the other hill tribes will take advantage of the schools, seems problematical.

It only remains to be determined from what fund the monthly expenses of these schools shall be defrayed. In the absence of any provision for schools of this class in the educational establishment sanctioned by the Government of India, the expense of maintaining the schools should be kept separate. If this arrangement is considered objectionable, one of the taluk schools in Coimbatore may be dispensed with and that fund allotted to maintain these schools.

25 September, 1856: Even before receiving the recommendations of the Director of Public Instructions, the Chief Secretary to Government, Madras Presidency T.Pycroft writes to Chief Secretary to Government of India

The Governor in Council concurs in Mr. Arbuthnot’s recommendation in favour of the establishment of the schools as an experiment. I am instructed to solicit authority for expenditure to the extent of 40 rupees per mensem for the maintenance of these hill schools.

The Government coincide in Mr. Arbuthnot’s opinion that instruction in these schools must, in the first instance, be entirely free.

7 November 1856: R.B. Chapman, Officiating Under-Secretary to Government of India sanctions 4 schools at Tuneri, Adikarati, Kaligherry and Dimbatti.

Under the authority of the Government of India, now granted the Director of Public Instruction will establish, as an experiment, a school in each of the villages named in the margin for the instruction of the Badagas residing on the Neilgherries, incurring for this purpose, as a temporary  measure, an expenditure of (40) forty rupees per mensem.

Mr. Arbuthnot will incur a further outlay of Rs.400 rupees for the erection of school buildings, to be charged to the surplus educational fund.

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