Education a mirage for tribal women

The news that about half of the tribal students in Tamil Nadu do not continue their studies beyond Class 10 is alarming.

Published: 17th December 2021 08:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th December 2021 08:07 AM   |  A+A-

Dongria tribal weavers

Dongria tribal weavers. (Representational image)

The news that about half of the tribal students in Tamil Nadu do not continue their studies beyond Class 10 is alarming. What makes it worse is that some students were denied education this year due to their inability to produce a community certificate. This newspaper had brought to light a few such cases. An 18-year-old girl from the Kattunayakar community from Tenkasi, who was denied a seat, finally got a free spot in another private college. Other Scheduled Tribe students were probably not as lucky as her. In 2019, the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department said at a hearing before NHRC that only 69 community certificates had been issued by the government to members of the SC and ST communities over the previous two years.

Looking at the larger picture, poor literacy rate among tribal women across India is a stark reminder of the woeful state of affairs of STs in the country. Northeastern states have shown the way to embrace all STs, but most big states stare at a yawning gap between the literacy levels of all females and tribal women. 
Among southern states, Tamil Nadu has a lot of catching up to do. As per the Union tribal affairs ministry’s annual report, it stands out with the widest gap of 26.6%, with the ST women’s literacy rate hovering around 46.8%, below the national average of 49.4%. The reasons are common: poverty, compulsion to work, early marriage, no nearby schools, discrimination and the nomadic culture of the indigenous population. Kerala and Karnataka were above national average at 71.1% and 53% respectively.

So what is the way forward? It is crucial for state governments to launch schemes to draw tribal students to classrooms and create awareness on school education among STs, most of whom live far away in remote villages. They should also enact the existing Central schemes for ST students and ensure the funding reaches the needy. Each school should keep a tab on these students. Education is a basic right of every citizen and it should be taken as the prime tool to usher STs into the mainstream.


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