Tamarind Tree: A School Without Walls

By auther pic. Shilpa Tiwari

September 28, 2020

Tamarind Tree:  A School Without Walls

Children enjoying maths session with creative techniques employed on the LMS

Setting boundaries comes easy to the human mind, it’s setting the mind free that is more difficult. Such a difficult proposition is easily dealt with by Tamarind Tree,a not for profit organisation based in tribal town of Dahanu, only two hours from Mumbai. The organisation works towards uplifting the educational levels of the tribal children in the state of Maharashtra since 2010.However, it is not a school with traditional confined boundaries. The students are free to smell the fragrance of their local blossoms and smile away in the freshness of the environment that naturally surrounds them, while they are learning their lessons online.In other words, they can be at the open rice field of their father or sit on a stone under the local Neem tree while taking a class. A school without walls can be any child’s dream but at Tamarind Tree, it is a reality.

Most interestingly the new-age teaching adopted by the unconventional school, the students don’t belong to same age or even same class. A diverse age group of age 6- 9 or 7- 10 or likewise band is arranged to be together and be taught online. This is literally removing the last straw of the barrier involved in traditional schooling and truly justifying the meaning of modern education.Dismantling the old for the new, the organisation had worked to break classroom herding, rote learning and the typical information delivery seen in schools.


My Big Campus is a hit amongst students

A typical classroom on April 10, 2020.  Schools all over the world are shut. At 9.50 am, the volunteer teacher’s computer screen lights up. Slowly the webcams are shared. Dhiraj, a 9-year-old tribal boy is sitting near his fallow rice field, adjusting his mobile phone to catch the signal. Riya’s webcam shows a blue painted wall and an asbestos roof, while Alok, 10 years is sitting under a beautiful neem tree whose leaves sway in the frame. Happy tribal Warli children at Dahanu are ready to study Mathematics, English, Marathi and Science that too in English medium. The teachers are friends and guides here who teach with complete dedication in a blended format. This means students get to interact with their teachers in person but also taught loads of information via online system.

The organisation had been using open source technologies with its marginalised tribal children since 2010. Registered as a school, running classes from pre-primary to standard eight, Tamarind Tree’s teaching space defies the traditional schooling.Tamarind Tree has all the students face to face with an online system that is not just akin to open source technologies like Moodle but where the students no less savour the taste of new age teaching. My Big Campus is the virtual learning environment of Tamarind Tree. This portal is used and created by a community of young learners and facilitators across different geographical spaces. The digitisation of Elementary education is based on National Council for Educational Research and Training, NCERT, accessed by students in a blended classroom.

The entire world has moved online post the COVID pandemic. However, the trend had already been set at Tamarind Tree for a decade in the world of elementary education. Therefore, with ten years of experience in using a Learning Management Platform as well as a virtual class framework, the lockdown became an opportunity to pursue the dream of a School Without Walls. Moving forward, since mid-March, Tamarind Tree offered Open and Free Online classes and courses to children in the ages from 6 years to 16 years opened up its digital classrooms and online teachers’ team to young children all over India.

“Tamarind Tree’s online classes are interesting. I am happy as there is not too much homework here. I enjoyed attending these classes and made friends from different cities. Thank you, all the teachers.” This is an excited expression of the new age student Agasti Mahajan from Mumbai. Many happy students across the states engage with Tamarind Tree classes for the courses that are drawn from the NCERT syllabus, in English, Math, Science, Marathi and Environmental Studies. The programme also includes “out of curriculum” courses on topics like Financial Literacy and Digital Skills.

Tamarind Tree’s impact on the education world is evident. By August 2020, Tamarind Tree had conducted more than 3000 hours of teaching with 22 courses run by over 50 Volunteers. Using mainly social media, Tamarind Tree spread the word about its free and open online classes. Apart from Maharashtra, the response from other states has been excellent. Students’ age bracket has widened its spectrum and now even goes till 17 years of age, starting age six.


EVS class taken by Volunteers running on the portal

Teaching the students is no longer an issue too. The organisation appealed to people to volunteer their time and ran a successful campaign drawing in a group of assorted enthusiasts – students, professionals, corporates and homemakers offering their time and resources to mentor children. “Since the lock-down, Tamarind Tree is running open and free onlineclasses from across India. Volunteers have been open, hardworking and willing to workto not just take online classes but create videos and engaging contentfor children,” said Neha K, the Programme Lead.

“We were amazed to see the responses from across the sector – I.T professionals, students, homemakers,marketing and HR people, chartered accountants.More than the range of people – their willingness and sincerity to learn new digital tools, produce videos and create content for our platform has been encouraging for us and heralding new beginnings for the education sector,”she said.Expressing her gratitude to CSRBOX, Neha says, “Through the CSRBOX portal, we've been extremely fortunate totie up with various corporates like Cognizant who have given us committed and enthusiasticvolunteers.

A happy parent Rohini Dhoka from Pune praised the efforts of this organisation by saying, “Shubh feels connected with the educator and excited about his assignments. The topics chosen are taught with realistic examples and are thoughtful. Education is like an open sky, she adds… and Tamarind Tree provides you that sky completely open to go and learn anything and everything.”

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.

Also Read: Amar Seva Sangam: Valley of Care and Compassion


Shilpa Tiwari is a New Delhi based Content Specialist with three decades of experience. She has worked extensively on a variety of researches and curricula across K12, Higher Education, Corporate and Social Development sectors. A Master’s degree in English Literature and a degree in French from Delhi University, alongwith International Business Programme from IIFT, most certainly provides Shilpa an added expertise to work as a Consultant on various research and consulting projects with Corporates, Educational Institutions, Publications, CSR Foundations and NGOs.


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