Kanavu, a very unconventional school which attracted international attention, is situated in the picturesque Cheengodu Hills in Nadavayal village, about 11 km from Kalpetta. It is set up by writer, activist and film director K. J. Baby and this school is exclusively meant for educating Adivasi children and cultivating a sense of pride in them. The unconventional teaching methods include training in traditional performances and music, as well as martial arts (Kalarippayattu) training.
`Kanavu’ which means `dream’ had been a dream project of writer-turned activist K. J. Baby. When he started the school about 17 years ago, it was just a thatched structure on six acres of land. Over the years, the school has grown with more students being enrolled in and it became a successful model in educating the tribes without destroying their genuine talents and traditions. Many scholars and academicians visit the school to know more about the innovative methods used in imparting knowledge to tribal communities. During 2007, Kanavu was registered as a trust, and the ex-students took over its administration.
The school intentionally did away with conventional practices like classroom and syllabus. Tribal folksongs and rituals were incorporated in the training sessions and this helped to reinforce a sense of identity in the community. Self-reliance is also taught here. Training is given in such a way that it helps develop the skills in students – be it music, painting, dance, farming, martial art or the like.
At the same time the children are also encouraged and trained to attend competitive exams. Students are encouraged to observe surroundings, and scientific awareness is also inculcated by stimulating interest in the environment. Supplementary information on the local area is given through books, pictures and slides.
The school follows the gurukul system in which the teachers live with the students and receive no remuneration for their work.
Kanavu has been identified as a unique experiment in cultural formation and learning and it can boast of a history of training many students who are now working at different parts of India. All the students of Kanavu have a reputation of being good performers of folk dances and songs and the self-reliance and self pride in them stand in testimony of the success of the institution.