Boarding School for Tribal Children

December 31, 2009

Caitlin Mc Quilling and Dr. Fabian Toegel

In 2006, one of RMF’s partner NGOs in India ‘BHILS’ opened Bhil Academy, a residential school for poor tribal children in rural Madhya Pradesh. The medium of teaching is English, which is the language essential for being able to work in any services industries or continue university studies in nursing, medicine, engineering and agriculture. After studying at Bhil Academy, students from the most rural parts of MP are fluent in English, Hindi, and their native Bhili and are prepared with the skills and the confidence to break the cycle of poverty that has trapped their parents for so long.

Currently, there are 260 students (one third of them girls) enrolled at the school, ranging from LKG (kindergarten) to eighth class. Apart from studying, the children also play sports, create theater, sing their traditional songs, dance to Bollywood, learn handicrafts, go on picnics, and watch BBC News (English) every night via satellite TV.

Since all the children are from poor families, there are no school or hostel fees, and they receive free school uniforms, shoes, books, and personal products. A nurse works fulltime for the students’ health and all medical cases are referred to Jeevan Jyoti Hospital in Meghnagar.

In 2009, a new school campus was established outside Jhabua (pictured below): on a two acre campus, a school, girls’ and boys’ hostel buildings as well as a dispensary have been constructed to accommodate 250 girls and 250 boys, which will be studying in the future from Kindergarten to twelfth class. The rooms are airy and spacious, contrasting to the one room mud huts children share with their large families and livestock back home, and give the children room to learn, play, and develop creatively.

The students of Bhil Academy moved into the new school campus in June 2009 (pictured above). They live in separate boys’ and girls’ hostels and are co-educated in the schools’ classrooms (pictured below)

RMF wishes to continue to support BHILS with this project that is making a lasting impact not just on the children of MP, but on the development of MP through its children. BHILS is preparing their students not only for jobs in the future, but is already turning them into community leaders who go back home to their villages during breaks and teach their extended families what they’ve learned in sustainable living, nutrition, and how to be a good citizen.

RMF is always looking for more opportunities to enrich the lives of the students at the Bhil Academy and to reach more children. For more ways to support the Bhil Academy and to meet their inspiring kids, click here.

It is largely unknown that India, a vast country of a billion plus, has its own "native" or tribal communities which have inhabited the subcontinent for tens of thousands of years. One of these communities is called "Bhils" and lives in the isolated and barren district of Jhabua in central India. Characterized by abject poverty, drought and disease outbreaks, Jhabua has been consistently ranked over decades as having the lowest literacy of the country's over 600 districts. Helping the most vulnerable members of the Bhil community, the children, a group of local individuals who had the luck of receiving education, built a residential school and a community health center with the help of German volunteers and donors ten years ago. Today Chetna Education and Healthcare Center is home to 750 tribal students and serves families in 15 villages through immunization, nutrition and safe motherhood programs.

Chetna School in the village of Gadwada in Jhabua District was built from German donations and today teaches over 750 tribal children from First through Tenth Grade. It is situated on a campus with several buildings including the Community Health Center, the girls' and boys' boarding and staff quarters.

Bhil Kids Help RMF

So far RMF has trained all the 7th, 8th, and 9th class students on malnutrition prevention and the use MUAC for malnutrition identification. Over summer break the students all educated their families on malnutrition prevention and treatment and referred over 10 severely malnourished children to hospitals for treatment (performing better than adults at some NGOs we trained).


Empowering the "Native" Indian Children
BHILS Boarding School

Tribal children study in English since Kindergarten. This program was initiated at Chetna School in 2000 and now teaches over 150 students from lower Kindergarten through fourth grade. Because of the success of the program, children and staff will shift to a new boarding school building in order to accommodate the new students of the years to come.

Manish and Usha have been studying in English since Kindergarten. They need a new boarding school building.

Country Page: India Initiative Page: Bhil Academy