Published: 01st June 2022
Kerala schools reopening: The challenges that lie ahead for students from tribal areas
The tribal welfare department, in association with panchayats have arranged vehicles for transportation of students from colonies to schools under the ‘Gotrasarathy’ scheme
Students, teachers and parents across the state are celebrating the opening of a new academic year after two years of a pandemic that disrupted the education system. However, it is the students belonging to the tribal community, the vulnerable learners, who have been hit the hardest. The decision of the government to wind up 334 single teacher schools has pushed to the edge the children belonging to tribal families in remote forests.
While the tribal welfare department claims that a majority of the students will reach schools on Wednesday, activists are sceptical.
“The students staying in tribal hostels were sent back to the colonies during the lockdown and they started helping the parents in their routine. Though schools were opened in November last year children, were reluctant to return. The closure of single teacher schools will force parents to send children studying in primary classes to tribal hostels. But many pre-matric hostels in the state lack basic amenities. Children studying in primary classes to Plus Two live crammed in hostels,” said Adivasi Aikya Vedi president Chitra Nilambur.
The tribal welfare department, in association with panchayats have arranged vehicles for transportation of students from colonies to schools under the ‘Gotrasarathy’ scheme. “Though the alternate learning centres have been closed, the government has made arrangements to ensure that no student is denied the opportunity to attend school. Children who want to stay with their parents can avail the Gotrasarathy scheme while those in deep forests can stay at tribal hostels. There were no dropouts in tribal areas during the lockdown period as the government had arranged learning centres in all colonies. In some places, retired teachers and educated youths have helped the children in their studies. Besides we provided laptops and digital learning facilities,” said tribal welfare department deputy director K Krishna Prakash
According to Chitra Nilambur, bringing back the children to the classroom will be an uphill task. “The attendance will be low in the initial days. The tribal promoters and teachers have visited the colonies and tried to encourage the parents to send children to schools. But bringing children living in deep forest areas to the schools is a challenge. Children studying in high school classes may return to the hostels, but parents are reluctant to send primary class students to hostels,” she said.
“Denying parental care to children at such a young age is cruelty. This will detach them from families and with no one to share their feelings the children will develop depression. The staff at pre-matric hostels are mostly non-tribal and they cannot understand the emotional state of tribal children. As many as 10 students in the age group of 15 -19 years have died by suicide in Malappuram district alone last year,” added Chitra.
Meanwhile, the tribal department has not been able to open the hostel at Idamalayar as 11 families from Arakappu colony are staying there. The families had left their colony last year fearing landslide and wild animals and were provided a temporary stay at the hostel. They are demanding the allocation of land at Panthapra colony in Kuttampuzha panchayat.
“Though we served notice to the families to vacate the hostel, they have refused to move out. The hostel has been provided to students of Govt UPS at Edamalayar. There are 40 students and we have decided to provide vehicle transport to 29 students from Thalukandam and Ponginchuvadu colonies. They will be provided breakfast and lunch. The classes will end at 2 pm after which they will be dropped at home safely Others will be shifted to tribal hostels in Aluva, Idukki and Munnar,” said tribal welfare officer Anil Bhaskar.