Tondamadka is a Gondi-speaking village located approximately 120 kilometers from Sukma’s headquarters in a rustic, picturesque setting surrounded by dense forests. It’s a bumpy ride through the jungle, crossing river streams and trekking alongside the Mahua and Salfie trees to Tondamadka. 

The village is also a hotbed of left-wing extremist activity, which complicates access to government programs and benefits. The village had a government primary school built sometime in the early 1990s. During the peak of the Salwa Judum movement, the school was demolished by left-wing extremists, roads were disrupted, bridges were broken, and the village was cut off from the outer world. These had forced Tondamadka’s children to abandon their studies; the entire village’s children had dropped out all at once.

In a step to bring back the lost children to school, the district administration of Sukma reopened the demolished school under a thatched roof supported by bamboo pillars in the year 2019. Anil, a local of Tondamadka, is appointed as the teacher. Anil had a chance and the resources to pursue his school education at a government residential school in the nearest district, Dantewada, more than 200 KMs from his village, and this qualified him to be a teacher in the newly reopened school. 

The new school brought a ray of hope for the out-of-school children in Tondamadka, and it registered an enrolment of 50 children in year one and 10 and 12 in the subsequent two years. Presently, the school has an enrolment of 72 children, provides uniforms for all the children, has a blackboard installed, and serves a regular midday meal.  

Anil began his career as a teacher in an unusual setting: Government Primary School Tondamadka. He describes how, at first, he had to play with the children for long periods of time in order to entice them to attend school. He also initially had to make daily home visits to children to convince their parents to send their wards regularly to school. The shortage of resources was acute initially, and Anil had to buy books and other stationery for children using his resources. 

When the topic of COVID-19-induced lockdown and its future possibilities is brought up, Anil becomes depressed. better.” “Had the lockdown not happened, my children would have learned to read and write better.” But he is trying his best to overcome the constraints,  and his efforts are visible as his children are being witnessed to be happy readers and writers on the school premises.  

With his commitment to uplifting the future of children in Tondamadka, he has been making sure that the strength of the class never falls below 60 students on any given day. He also makes sure that the children are never devoid of midday meals, that they learn to read and write, and, most importantly, that they enjoy their tenure on the school premises. The liveliness in the school throughout the day in an otherwise quiet village stands as evidence of Anil’s commitment to the cause of education for his children.