NEW DELHI: Tribal students facing difficulties in understanding textbooks which are not in their dialect, and lack of awareness and understanding of the value of formal education among ‘illiterate’ elders are among the reasons why the literacy rate is low among tribal communities in the country, the Centre told Parliament on Tuesday.
The other reasons for poor literacy level are the distance between home and school, shortage of teachers due to the remoteness of habitations, teachers being reluctant to work in schools in tribal areas, and teachers from other areas not being familiar with local tribal languages, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs told the Rajya Sabha while responding to an unstarred question.
Government data shows there are over 700 scheduled tribes spread over different states and UTs.
According to the Census 2011, the literacy rate of scheduled tribes was 59 percent as compared to the overall literacy rate of 73 percent.
Odisha-based activist Y Giri Rao said, “In Odisha, teachers from the tribal communities have been appointed so that children can follow instructions in their dialects till they attain a certain age to follow instructions in Odia. This model should be replicated in order to bridge the gap in terms of dialects.”
C R Bijoy from Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national coalition of forest dwellers’ movement, said the ST literacy rate was not uniformly low across the country.
“Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya have higher ST literacy rates,” he said.
“This is despite this region being a hilly terrain. Secured tenurial rights over land and forests ensured their economic and social well-being which is a critical factor in enabling the tribal community to access higher education,” he added.
With effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006, the ST literacy rate would improve, said Bijoy.