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The St. Robert’s High School in Hazaribagh has enrolled 24 Birhor children in a program sponsored by Tata Steel to provide free schooling to youngsters who show a strong interest and aptitude for education. The company covers all the costs of the residential education, such as fees, room and board, so the young Birhor can attend school in India’s Jharkhand state.

According to a news report in the Daily Pioneer on May 15, the Tata Steel Rural Development Society, a branch of the main Tata Steel Company, arranged a day-long health camp at the school for all the students in attendance. The services of doctors were provided free of charge, along with free medicines when needed. In the course of the day, Tata Steel executives visited the school and interacted with the 24 Birhor children. Officials from the company gave the students backpacks, t-shirts, mosquito nets, and other such gifts.

The Chief of Operations of Tata Steel West Bokaro, Mr. Sahabji Kuchroo, said that the program was designed to create “enthusiasm among the children towards education.” He said the company plans to expand the program by adding 11 more Birhor children to the school. He added that providing the opportunity to get a high quality education can help the young Birhor become more self-reliant. After the speeches, the officials and the Birhor children sat together at a feast and discussed the journey the young people were undertaking.

Birhor woman with children

Birhor woman with children (Screen capture from the video “Birhor—a Tribe Displaced for Nothing” by VideoVolunteers on YouTube, Creative Commons license)

The Daily Pioneer published a second news story three days later about a similar program for Birhor children at the Bokaro Steel plant at Bokaro, which is also in Jharkhand state. The 15 children in that program had just left the city to return to their home villages for a summer vacation lasting until June 11. Those children all come from the Gomia Block of the Bokaro District of Jharkhand. Much like the program run by Tata Steel, the Bokaro plant covers all costs for the kids.

The corporate social responsibility program of Bokaro Steel and its attempts to educate Birhor children have been well reported by the press in India over the past decade. While the current reports in the Daily Pioneer are brief, it is good to learn that the huge industrial conglomerates in Jharkhand continue their outreach to the Birhor communities. The most recent Daily Pioneer story indicates that some of the Birhor educated at Bokaro Steel a decade ago are now computer-savvy adults who can communicate in English.