Tulasi Munda is a noted social activist from Indian state of Orissa who was awarded Padma Shri in 2001 by Government of India. Tulsi Munda has done a lot of work to spread literacy among the tribal people. Munda has released hundreds of tribal children from a future as exploited daily labourers by setting up a school in Orissa’s mining area. As a girl, she had herself worked in these mines as a labourer. It is an interesting fact that when tribal children go to their schools, they are out-performing many children attending general schools in the rest of the state. In 2011 Tulasi Munda wons Odisha Living Legend Award for Excellence in Social service
Tulsi Munda pioneered the phenomenon of growing strength of women in Orissa.
sexagenarian Tulsi Munda is known for her mission to spread literacy among the underprivileged. An encounter with Vinoba Bhave when he visited Orissa in 1963 during the Bhoodan Andolan padayatra set her on the path that was to change the fortunes of her people. On that padayatra' Tulsi promised Vinoba she'd follow his guidelines and principles throughout her life. A year later' in 1964' enthused by the acharya's ideals and goals' and armed with her social service training' she started work in Serenda.
Inspired by Vinoba Bhave's ideals' the illiterate Tulsi Munda opened a school under a mahua tree for children of tribal mine workers.
Charity begins at home but Tulsi also chose Serenda because "it was extremely backward and poor". Today' her efforts have benefited not only the villagers of Serenda where she's based with her Adivasi Vikas Samiti' but for the people living around
100 km of this tribal belt. Popularly known as Tulsiapa' she's changed the whole educational statistics as well as the social standard of the area through the school she runs under the aegis of her Samiti.
About 7 km away from Joda (famous for its iron ore mines)' Serenda houses almost 500 tribals. At first' Tulsi had a hard time convincing people about the need for education. "I had to visit each and every house." In fact' since children in the area worked in the mines during the day' Tulsi started a night school with the help of the village mukhiya. Then she convinced mine workers to leave their children in her care for the day. She began by telling them stories about the freedom movement and deeds of our great scholars and national leaders. "I was an illiterate and knew nothing of bookish knowledge' but I had come to know about the importance of education and had enough practical knowledge to impart it."
Tusli started her school under a mahua tree. To raise funds' which were in short supply' she took to selling vegetables and murri (puffed rice). Later' as she began to gain their confidence' the villagers began providing her with food and a place to live in. Soon Tulsi persuaded the villagers to cut stones from the mountain and help her build the school. It took six months for the school to come up outside the village. Today the Adivasi Vikas Samiti school has two concrete buildings.
Funds remained a problem for a long time. Tulsi had no money to pay the teachers but she gathered the youth of the village who had studied up to primary level. "They all came voluntarily. Things began to be sorted out when my students offered to pay a fee-that was a landmark in my mission. Donations also began coming in from large industrial houses and some foreign agencies." Now she charges Rs 200 a month for the hostel but only from those who can afford to pay her. Today the school has seven teachers and 354 students with hostel facilities for 81 children.
"Tulsidi is like our mother and she has been our source of inspiration in life'" says Sharad Kumar Perei who teaches in class IV. His colleague Abhay Kumar Mishra agrees' and in fact thinks the school compares well with any government school as far as the standard of education is concerned. "We try to give the best of everything to the students'" he says.
Confident that her mission to educate has taken off' Tulsi hopes to undertake other developmental programmes through her Adivasi Vikas Samiti. "The first thing I want to do is to prevent alcoholism among the tribals who regularly take hadiya (the local brew). I also want to form gram sabhas and mahila sangathans to discuss and find ways to improve their condition'" says she.What about finances? "Of course there are a lot of financial constraints; even now I can't pay my schoolteachers their salaries on time but I do get help from foreign agencies and individuals from time to time. Support and financial aid from tsrds (Tata Steel Rural Development Society) has come in as a great help."