KOLLAM: In the tribal hamlet of Achankovil, they send the girls to schools. But a majority of the boys stay back home! They accompany their parents to forests for collecting wood or honey. The reason they are kept away from schools is more intriguing - the absence of a boys’ hostel!
For Kerala, the first state to achieve total primary education in January 2016, it is exasperating that there still is a good number of children deprived of the Right to Education. Geetha Sukunath, who represents the Achankovil ward in the Aryankavu panchayat, told Express, “This is an interesting case. Generally, it’s the girls who are deprived of education. But here, the boys were asked to stay at home as their parents fear for their life once they send them to schools.”
According to the tribals, it’s impractical to travel back and forth through the dense forests on a daily basis to attend school. “They say the boys will not be sent to school as the authorities concerned are yet to take up their repeated demand for a boys’ hostel in the area. The absence of the facility is costing these boys dear,” the panchayat member said.
According to her, as there is a Pre-Metric Hostel for Girls at Achankovil, parents were more than happy to send their girls to schools. “Though this perennial problem has been brought to the notice of ministers as well as to the district Collector, an action is yet to come by.
While the authorities cite space constraints for not constructing a boys’ hostel, it has been found there is sufficient land available near the Achankovil School for the same,” she said.
Accepting the absence of a hostel had led to a comparatively greater dropout rate of boys in the area, Kollam deputy director of education K S Sreekala said: “When the department envisioned a ‘back-to-school’ programme, a majority of the parents expressed their willingness to send their boys to school. But they give it a second thought when it comes to the safety of their children.”
District Child Protection Unit officer Siju Ben said they were in the process of chalking out a programme to bring the boys back to school. As an initial step, the DCPU - along with a few NGOs and representatives from other departments - has plans to visit the tribal hamlet on June 7.
As part of the visit, they will conduct a survey and check the admission register of the Achankovil HS and the HSS to trace the dropouts, he said.“Whatever the programme, it has to be implemented in a time-bound manner. There is no justification in playing with the future of children. Also, the authorities will have to come out with a plan for the 11 families living on a plantation at Muthalathodu where 10-15 children are yet to attend school,” said Geetha.