Last mile accessibility and high dropout rates often mean that students in rural areas find it hard to avail of opportunities for education. AIM for Seva has helped to address both issues through its network of Chatralayams or student hostels.
The origin of the model lay in Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s conversation with a tribal woman in 1999, when he visited the hills of the Anaikatti range in Tamil Nadu. Swami Dayananda Saraswati was astonished to discover more than 100 tiny hamlets nestled within the mountains. In one of the villages, he enquired of an elderly lady from the Irula tribe, “What help do you need?” The lady, named Papammal, immediately responded “Swami, my children need to walk seven kilometers to school, across the forest which is very unsafe. Why don’t you build a hostel and help them go to school?”
Swami Dayananda Saraswati inferred that the last mile education conundrum in India could be resolved by establishing a hostel network across the country, wherein the hostels would be situated in close proximity to schools. Students could live in this place and attend the nearby school. The hostel environment would be clean and neat and would focus on providing an education plus support. This would include tuition, fortified food, yoga music and other extracurricular activities. These free student hostels came to be known as Chatralayams.