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Digital disconnect keeps tribal students out in Kerala

Unable to follow online classes due to several reasons, 30% of tribal kids dropped out in past one year, say activists 

Published: 14th July 2021 06:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2021 06:20 AM   |  A+A-

Children attend online classes at the multi-grade learning centre at Anandamkudy in Kuttampuzha panchayat of Ernakulam | EXPRESS

Express News Service

KOCHI: Around 30% of the tribal students of up to Plus Two classes in the state have discontinued their studies during the past one year due to the Covid-induced lockdown, which has forced the education department to shift to online education mode, according to activists working for the welfare of the tribal community. There are around 70,000 tribal students in the state of whom 15,000 used to stay in hostels and model residential schools.

These students are provided food, accommodation and special tuition in the hostels. The children stay with their parents only during the summer vacation and festival occasions like Onam, Pooja and Christmas. Besides, there are single teacher schools and community study centres in the tribal hamlets where educated youth help the students in their studies.

However, with the school education migrating online, children have been unable to attend classes due to non-availability of net connectivity and TV network in the forest areas. In some areas, the teachers and volunteers provided TV sets and recorded versions of the classes in pen drives. However, the tribal children are unable to follow the online classes due to language problems and practical difficulties.

“Parents take the children along with them when they go in to the wild to collect forest produce as there is no one at home to take care of them. In the tribal hamlets, the parents are mostly uneducated and there is no one to motivate the children. Nilambur area alone has around 15,000 tribal students, of whom 14,000 have discontinued studies. Last year, we held a protest at Nilambur AEO office after which the tribal hostels were opened for four months,” said activist Chitra Nilambur.

The students who are admitted to the tribal hostels and model residential schools take the studies seriously as they get good food and accommodation. But most of the children feel stressed as they stay away from their parents. They get vacation only for 80 days a year and often the schools have to take the help of tribal promoters to bring the children back after vacation.

“Most tribal children feel suffocated in the towns. Due to the centralised system of allotment, the students are often admitted to hostels far away from their hamlets, which makes it difficult for them to meet their parents. The children who stay at hostels get alienated from the wild. During the past one year, they have got an opportunity to enjoy the warmth of affection and they have little concern for studies,” said World Wildlife Fund (WWF) associate coordinator Tijo Thomas.

“Though the forest and tribal welfare departments have provided TV sets and mobile phones in many hamlets, there is a lack of motivation among the children. The classes are not interactive and there is no system to keep the children engaged. Besides, poor net connectivity and frequent power failure cause hurdles. Many children accompany their parents to the wild to collect forest produce. The parents often return to the hamlets only after two weeks,” said Tijo who works among tribal people in Vazhachal, Parambikulam and Silent Valley.

WHEN TOWNS SUFFOCATE 
“Most tribal kids feel suffocated in towns. They complain there is a lot of noise,” said WWF associate coordinator Tijo Thomas. The past year gave them the opportunity to enjoy the warmth of home and they have little concern for studies, he pointed out.

Kerala tribal education
Tribal population in Kerala 

4,84,839 Tribal students 

70,000 Students studying in tribal hostels and model residential schools 

15,000 Model residential 
schools: 20
Pre-matric hostels: 106
Post-matric hostels: 5



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