Dropout rate among tribal students in Kerala a worry

Of the total 1,39,916 students dropped out of schools in past 10 years, around 19,000 belonged to ST category 

Published: 11th February 2022 07:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2022 07:40 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:  The practice of tribal students dropping out of school, albeit less prevalent now, is continuing despite the slew of measures initiated by the state government to prevent it. Based on general education department statistics, students belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST) accounted for around 19,000 of the total 1,39,916 students who had dropped out of school in the last 10 years.  Further, the department found out that the dropout rate among tribal students peaked in Classes IX and Class X.

Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK)  special programme officer Amul Roy said that the reasons for dropping out of school varied from student to student. Inability to grasp the topic taught in classes is one of the major triggers for this, he pointed out. “As such, they find it tough to understand the mode of instruction, which is in Malayalam. They also  find science, mathematics and English difficult. So, instead of taking on the challenge and try to learn the subjects, they choose the easy way out,” he added. 

However, SSK has come out with textbooks written in  tribal languages to deal with the problem, he said. “Besides, we record videos and play them at the learning centres in their Oorus,” said Amul. Another reason for tribal students dropping out of studies is that the children, especially the teenagers, are forced to work in order to add to the household income. “This mainly happens during the coffee and black pepper harvest season. Children skip classes and once they stay away, they never return,” said the study by the general education department.

Amul said that these students also find it difficult to identify themselves with students from outside their Oorus.  “They are teased by other children and this makes them feel insecure. Also, these children are used to unfettered freedom. But, when they come to school they find themselves in a very disciplined atmosphere. They can’t adjust to this atmosphere and hence drop out,” he said.

It also doesn’t help when the parents are illiterate and are unaware of the importance of education. “Another issue that plagues these tribal areas is drug and alcohol abuse. Once the children get addicted, studying and going to school takes a back seat,” he added. According to the study, another problem for this high dropout rate among the tribal students is the decision by schools to with-hold results of students who perform poorly in Class XI.

“This leads to dropout. It should be noted here that dropout rate is the highest among girl students. This is because in certain tribal communities the girls are married off at a very young age. They are not allowed to step outside the Oorus. It is their culture,” said Amul. The only way to get these girls to return to school is to educate their parents and tribal members, he added. Another issue that makes the tribal children give up schooling is their reluctance to travel to distant places where the schools are located. 

“We can’t blame them. They need a lot of money and also there is the issue of safety,” he added. To counter this, SSK has set up shelters near the schools for tribal boys, said Amul. “These shelters, set up in Wayanad, Nilambur, Marayur and Thiruvananthapuram,  provide the tribal students safe accommodation during their schooling days,” he said.

“Moreover, hostels have been set up for the children. Another issue that we face is the massive dropout rate in Class XI. Those who manage to finish SSLC refrain from taking the next step in their education. This is because they join their parents to do their traditional work. For this, the SSK is using the Kerala State Open School  (SCOLE) facility,” said Amul.


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