Tamarind Tree is an alternative school located in Sogve village, Dahanu Taluka, Maharashtra. Founded on the principles of social justice and equity, the school is an initiative to democratise knowledge and technology for the benefit of tribal communities.  Catering to the local tribal children of Dahanu, Tamarind Tree offers an alternative education to first generation tribal learners of the region. An experiment in education, the school believes in creating a learner driven environment using the power of digitisation to teach.

The school has classes from Nursery to Grade 6 and is increasing a class every year to provide education to till Class 10.  The total strength is now at 150 students, 90 percent of whom are tribals, belonging to the Warli tribes. The school is legally recognized by the Maharashtra Education Department.

Tribal Communities

With a long history of exploitation and subjugation, tribal communities have been withdrawing into a culture of silence. Though they form eight percent of our country's population, they remain at the bottom end in terms of their indicators of health, literacy, access to media and knowledge. Their lands, forests and resources continue to be contested. The formal schooling system offered by the State is alien and exclusive -- perpetuating prejudices and not contributing to  their overall development. In Maharashtra, the state curriculum is in Marathi while the local tribals have their own oral dialect of Warli which is not Marathi and does not even have its own script. As a result, several students drop out in upper primary or have very very poor learning levels.

Moreover  tribal children educated in Zilla Parishad schools end up in limbo -- neither do they have any understanding of their history or identity nor are they equipped to negotiate the mainstream society. The attitude of the State schools reinforces certain stereotypes and prejudices that have been built around the tribal communities.  Eventually, education does not necessarily help them change their social realities.

The Tamarind Tree Space 

Our space is about creating a culture of learning, a culture of equity where every individual can learn at her own pace. The school takes in young tribal children at 4 years and spends the initial years in working at getting them to be comfortable in a new environment,  speak, look at us in the eye and remove any fear or inhibitions. Having opted to use English as a medium of instruction, the school takes the tribal child gently from her mother tongue (Warli) to English. At the early pre primary stage, a variety of pedagogy is used to help the tribal child open up and feel comfortable to explore the world outside. Digital interaction begins with games based learning and students experience alphabets and numbers, geography and science both on the screen as well as through play, story telling and observations. 

Meal times are times used to chat, expose students to different foods thereby widening their palettes but most importantly ensuring that proper and scientific nutrition is taken by each and every one on campus. 

As the students grow and enter formal learning, the school is working hard towards a model of Individual Interactive Learning where a student has a digital device and a facilitator as a support to guide learning.  

The school has set up three servers -

1. A Virtual Learning Environment hosted in Moodle where the students can access all their curriculum based on NCERT.

2. An e-library hosted around 2000+ books

3 A video server hosting a range of open source videos to be used for learning.

At the moment, the entire campus is linked on a wireless network and students and facilitators can access these servers at any point.

At Tamarind Tree, we believe that education is no longer about content delivery or information (which due to digitization is now available) but about being able to discern and get the correct information and pursue knowledge and skills as individuals. We have tried to break the classroom herd mentality of most formal educational set ups and have done away with rote learning. We see every child or facilitator or any adult on campus as a learner and encourage that everyone learns at his or her own pace.

Our Primary students go through an interdisciplinary curriculum that aims to cover the basic learning levels (Reading, Writing, Comprehension, Numeracy and Logical thinking) to build them into self motivated independent learners. We hope to see a cafeteria type school in the next couple of years.

Open Source Technologies The space only uses Open Educational Resources (OER's) with the belief that knowledge cannot be owned by anyone and should be freely available to all. All our machines, the servers and all software is OPEN SOURCE.

Holistic Development
At the school, we believe that the optimal development of children - their  physical, social, cognitive, emotional and educational growth is vital for society. Critical to enhancing the ability to learn is the physical development of the child.  The school provides nutritious and wholesome food  to ensure that the physical needs are taken care of. The  meals are planned factoring in the required protein intake of children given the fact that their diets are only  carbohydrate rich.

In addition, the school provides Karate training, Athletics and gymnastics training for children above 6 years of age and has a licensed teacher from the Japan Karate Association and a trained Physical Education teacher to train children. Students regularly participate in Karate tournaments at State and District Level.