HYDERABAD: Education has become a major handicap for more than 2,000 Gotti Koya Internally Displaced People (IDP) tribal children who have been living in Eturnagaram and Bhadrachalam mandals of Warangal and Khammam districts respectively for the last seven years.
Hailing from Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Koyas migrated to Telangana about seven years ago due to Maoist-Salwa Judum crossfire. However due to lack of schools and non-implementation of Right to Education for the IDPs, their children have been missing out on education.
About 12,000-15,000 Koyas had permanently migrated from Bijapur, Sukma and Dantewada districts of South Chhattisgarh or Bastar to Telangana. Overall, they have settled in 256 hamlets in the two neighbouring mandals of the state.
“Even though some boys are sent to Ashram and other government schools, that are 6-7 km from the Koyas’ forest hamlets, girls are seldom sent, primarily because the families need them for household chores,” said Alka Singh, state programme coordinator for NGO Save the Children.
Apart from remoteness, language is a big deterrent to education. The government schools teaches in Telugu, which most Koyas don’t understand.
“We are demanding for the implementation of Telugu-Koya bilingual primers developed by the state government recently in residential and government schools where IDP Koyas can avail education,” said Right to Education Forum national executive member Ch Murali Mohan.
“Even though they are IDPs, they have right to avail education under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan in any part of the country,” he added.
The NGO, which has reach in only 50 of the 256 IDP Koya hamlets, says it has opened Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) -- small huts where children are taught basics of Telugu with a teacher and a Koya translator.
The right age of enrolment also deters many to skip school or drop out of it.
“Suppose a 10-year-old boy (who missed formal education due to conflict in Bastar) is made to sit in Class I, he feels out of place and eventually drops out,” Singh added.
This leads to migration of child labour to other states and districts for work. In a recent survey of 50 Koya IDP hamlets, it was found that 292 children were married before the age of 18.
Livelihood, exploitation and malnutrition
Majority of Koyas work as daily wage labourers in chilli fields. However, some also work in collection of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) and exchange that for salt and onions in weekly markets. At fields, while adults make Rs 120 a day, child labourers are given Rs 60. “For locals, it is an opportunity of cheap labour,” Alka Singh said.
Working on chilli fields does not give them food security. A survey of 800 children by the NGO reported that there is 20 per cent Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and 45 per cent Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) among the children. Pregnant and lactating women also suffer from the phenomenon.
“When PDS does not reach the common people, how can we expect it to reach the interior jungles where the Koyas live,” she questioned.