Education of Dalit Children
Touching the Untouchables:
Changing Dalit children’s lives
Social status of Dalits (India)
Rooted in religion and based on a division of labor, the caste system dictates the type of occupation a person can pursue and the social interactions that one may have. India’s caste system has four main classes. In descending order, they include:
Brahmin – Scriptural education and teaching;
Kshatriya – Public service, including administration, maintenance of law and order;
Vaishya – Commercial activity as businessmen;
Shudra – Semi-skilled and unskilled laborers.
There is no slot for Dalits in the caste pyramid. They are literally out-of-caste, the outcasts.
It is believed that the people of the various castes were created from the different parts of Brahma’s body. Brahma is the Hindu god of creation. The people from the Brahmin caste are created from his head, those from the Kshatriya caste from his arms, the Vaishya from his thighs, and the Shudra from his feet. The “untouchables”—believed to be created from the dust under the feet of Brahma—are commonly segregated, banned from full participation in Hindu social life, and exposed to various atrocities.
In traditional Hindu society, Dalit status is usually associated with work regarded as ritually impure such as butchery, rubbish removal, cleaning latrines and sewers, and leatherwork.
Anyone who engages in these activities is seen as “polluted” and such pollution is considered contagious.
There are 170 million Dalits in India—17 percent of the population. Yet, there continue to be elaborate precautions taken in Indian society to prevent incidental contact between Dalits and other citizens. Discrimination against the Dalits in non-urban areas exists in everyday matters such as access to restaurants, schools, temples, and water sources.
A recent survey undertaken in 565 villages of 11 states in India shows the types of discrimination:
38 percent of government schools made Dalit children take their meals separately;
26 percent of public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes;
48 percent of Dalits were denied access to common water sources in their villages;
36 percent of Dalits were denied entry into village shops and had to wait at a distance to be served. The shopkeepers put the goods they buy on the ground and accept their money in the same way, without direct contact;
10 to 20 percent of villages did not allow Dalits to wear bright clothes or glasses. They could non ride their bicycles, open their umbrellas, wear sandals on public roads.
Dalit women are subjected to double discrimination. They suffer from severe limitations regarding access to justice and widespread impunity in cases where the perpetrator is a member of a higher caste. They are considered easy targets for trafficking. Ninety-eight percent of those forced into "polluting" occupations such as manual cleaning of latrines and sewers are Dalit women.
Through the traditional practice of untouchability, Dalit Christians suffer social, educational, and economic disabilities on a par with Dalits of other religions. Even though the government of India enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act (PCR Act) in 1955 to enforce the abolition of “untouchability,” only non-Christian Dalits are entitled to the privileges of protection: Christian Dalits are denied all government privileges. In India, about 70 percent of Christians are Dalits and this discrimination is the price they pay for their faith in Christ.
New dignity through education
A great percentage of all those in modern slavery around the world are Dalits. Some educated Dalits have successfully integrated into urban Indian society, where caste origins are less obvious and less important in public life. However due to extreme poverty and the discrimination they have to endure at school, most Dalit children finish their education after sixth grade.
The way out of unjust treatment is education, which blurs the caste system and creates work opportunities. Education empowers Dalits by giving them the tools to create a better life for themselves and their families. Every educated Dalit child begins a new life with new freedom and dignity!
Touch with love
If you would like to join us in creating a chain of love for Dalits in the diocese of Thanjavur in India, and touch forever the life of those who are discriminated against merely because they happen to be born into an “untouchable” family, you can do it via our Congregation.