Journal of Education & Social Policy

ISSN 2375-0782 (Print) 2375-0790 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/jesp

Education or Debt Bondage: Is Social Change Possible for the Arunthathiyar Caste in Salem, Tamil Nadu?
Andre Celeti

This article engages with the issue of debt bondage and analyses the role education can have in integrating formerly bonded child labourers into society. By exploring a particular scheduled caste prone to debt bondage in Tamil Nadu, a state of southern India, it highlights the potential and limitations of education for those who are released from bondage. During a two-month fieldwork period, in addition to village visits, observations, informal conversations and meetings with government officials, qualitative interviews were held with staff from a local grass-root organization and formerly bonded child labourers who mostly attend colleges. The key findings that emerged pinpoint the way debt bondage is tied to a broader social system that reproduces itself by maintaining the Arunthathiyar within a low social-cultural position by, amongst other things, undercutting their education. They also highlight the role education can have in integrating formerly bonded labourers by assisting them to gradually move out of their low caste position. This includes changing their mentalities, teaching them the official state language and providing skills to engage in the broader labour market.

Full Text: PDF