Montfort Community School, Yercaud
“A 21st Century Human Empowerment Programme” A SITUATION IN 2001
Kombuthooki is a small mountainous tribal village in the Yercaud taluk, 22 kms away from Montfort Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, Yercaud. It is situated in the interior semi forest regions at the edge of the Shervaroy Hills abutting Dharmapuri District. There are a cluster of 18 villages and nearly 50 hamlets within a radius of 13 kms with a net population of nearly 15,000 inhabitants. Most of these villages have no electricity or proper roads. These villages are cut off from the main stream of life. For health care and education they must walk a minimum of six to twelve kilometers. Only recently a road was laid to Maramangalam and Arangam connecting Yercaud to these villages.
The inhabitants called ‘malaialis’ are tribal people of the ‘Shervaroy Hills’, the Queen of the eastern Ghats. These villages fall in the rain shadow areas of the Shevaroys. They were the original inhabitants of the fertile shevaroy hills and mountains. They have been deprived of their own land and are in turn workers and coolies employed by the estate land lords. Their men folk either cut wood and trees or grow poppies or brew illicit arrack to make a living. Some of them with their womenfolk are employed in the far away estates.
The children are left to themselves to grow up at the mercy of the Nature or graze cattle. A few elementary government schools situated in tins area were in deplorable conditions with very little facilities. They have poor attendance in terms of staff and students. The practice of female infanticide and child marriages were very high in these areas. Many of these tribal’s still believe in black magic and witchcrafts. However, they are innocent, simple and have their own unique traditions. Deprived of education and attention, they have been waiting long for the dawn of liberation.
The Discovery and Intervention (Evolution of the project)
In 1999, during an annual camp for the students of std III TO XII, organized by Montfort Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School the Principal, Bro. George K.J, along with a colleague, ventured to take a long walk which took them as far as to Kombuthooki, the last village in Yercaud Taluk. He was surprised to find a number of villages and hamlets deep inside the reserved Vanniyar forest area extending up to the `Manjavadi Ghats’. During his first visit the children ran away in fear, but it was a historic journey – a journey that took him to a land where God’s own children are at work and play. Days were not far off for these children to come back running to him. Fascinated by the scenic beauty of this new found land and the deplorable conditions of the tribal, Bro. George K.J organized a survey of the villages falling within an area of 10 sq.kms. The Survey taken by the Montfort school staff and students brought to light the critical conditions prevailing in these tribal areas regarding education, health and hygiene.
The result of the survey and further interaction with the people of the area revealed the need for a multi-pronged immediate intervention. More than money or materials, they needed ‘Education’ in its holistic sense in order to liberate them from their present conditions and to empower them – thus bringing them to the mainstream of life. Bro. George shared with his students and staff members of Montfort Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School his dream and plans for the tribal of Kombuthooki and the villages around it.
Though reluctant in the beginning, they slowly come forward to support and up lift the underprivileged tribals, particularly the children. To make his dream come true, Bro. George K.J organized a fancy fete in Montfort school and collected some funds. With this fund, he acquired a piece of land at Koravankadu and constructed a fairly large shed with aluminum sheet roof, which serves even today as a multipurpose hall where the students are given their daily meals. After a whole lot of reflections, on 1st October 2001, Bro.George initiated the Community Project at Koravankadu, falling within the vicinity of Kombuthooki village on a very moderate note, with seven students. On 12th December, 2001 in the presence of the elders of these villages, the Community School and the Community centre was officially launched after lighting the ‘Kuthuvilakku’ and invoking God’s blessings. Bro. George appointed Mr. Vino Vigilious, as one of his collaborators for the project. Bro.George along with these collaborators collected the first few children – boys and girls in the age group of 3 years to 16 years, who laid the strong foundation for this Banyan movement.
Montfort Community School(2001)
Ph.Nos. 04281 – 291122(R), 291111/291989 (O)
Community (2019 – 2020)
Bro. George Kalangod – Project Director
Bro. Lawrence Gabriel
Bro. Antony P.J