At a time when the education system is going online in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, students from the tribal settlements without internet connectivity or smartphones are left out.
“The government intervention to link school students to online platforms to provide them with education is good. But at the same time, the government must consider the special situation of tribal children and ensure that they also get an education. For this revamping the idea of tribal hamlet education volunteers will be good,” said Suma Vishnudas, a social scientist.
“Also Padanaveedu tribal hamlet education scheme should be strengthened. The government must provide internet connectivity and smartphones along with training to volunteers to work along with the tribal children,” she added.
She said the school dropout rate is the highest among the tribal children in the State particularly those belonging to Panian, Adiyan, and Kattunaika communities.
“The high school dropout rate is leading to the educational backwardness of these children. These children are away from any sort of communication from schools and other educational activities during the lockdown. Even in the normal course, the educational gap between the tribal children and children from the general category is widening. So the government must take steps to fill the gap,” she explained.
Studies show that family problems, lack of parental interest, and social isolation are the main reasons for ST students to drop out of school. The dropout rate is highest in Wayanad and Idukki districts in Kerala.
A recent survey points out that the tribal population of Wayanad has a literacy rate much below that of the district (89 per cent). The tribal population consists of 11 tribes and accounts for 1,51,443 people out of the total population of 8,17,429.
Most of the people in tribal settlements do not have access to smartphones or the internet. “Here there is not even proper electricity supply than how can the students learn online,” asked a resident of the tribal colony.
Though there are schemes like Gotra Bandhu and Gotra Sarathi to improve tribal education, it is yet to reach all.
Gotra Sarathi is a project that uses vehicles to get Adivasi students to school from forests and other remote places. But the Tribal volunteers say that the project has stalled in many places after the salaries of drivers were delayed.
The COVID-19 situation has worsened the situation in tribal colonies with the students forced to spend time inside their totally cut off from the outer world.