NEW DELHI: Tribal students have appealed to the government to ensure “quality education” and proper facilities, including schools and hostels, for those belonging to scheduled tribes and said that reservation in government institutions and jobs alone is not the solution to their problems. They also urged the central government to formulate policies on the “basis of ground realities” for the welfare of tribal children.
Tribal students from across India participated in a convention organised by the Adivasi Adhikar Manch and the Centre for Adivasi Research and Development here on Saturday to highlight their issues. “Please tell the government that we are not getting a quality education. There are no schools in some tribal areas. Even if there are, there are no teachers. At some places, tribal students have to travel miles to reach school. “We need more hostels and good facilities. The government talks about reservation (in jobs), but what will we do if we do not get a proper education?” asked Sunil Tirki from Jharkhand.
Tribal students, who had come from faraway villages of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tripura, and other states, also complained about poor hostel facilities at residential government schools. They said that hostels do not have proper drinking water and toilet facilities. At some places, there are no ceiling fans. So, the students sleep in the open during summers.
“Sometimes, we have to fetch water from nearby wells. Very often students fall sick and return home, as there are no proper medical facilities available for us,” Lata Soren, a tribal student from Chattisgarh, said. The organisers claimed that because of the “flawed” policy framework of the government which is detached from the ground reality, “Adivasi children cannot sustain their education”.
“The Centre is cutting down on the number of schools based on the number of students attending the classes. Now, in tribal areas, this is proving to be disastrous. Because of the geographical locations of these areas, one cannot hope that Adivasi children will sustain their education without a decentralized approach. “That’s why compared to other children, the dropout rate among tribal students is higher. If the government wants to bridge this gap, then it needs a different policy framework,” Brinda Karat, CPI(M) leader and member of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, says. The students’ parents, who also attended the convention, said that there are many villages which do not have schools.
“I want my two children to study, but there are no schools. If they want to go to school, they need to travel miles through forests. It is unsafe. Why cannot schools be built near our villages?” asks 25-year-old Phula Bai, who belongs to the Bhil tribe of Rajasthan. According to a recent survey conducted by the Adivasi Adhikar Manch and the Centre for Adivasi Research and Development, some tribal areas have recorded an increase in the dropout rate among girl students, as not many parents feel safe to send their daughters to the schools far-off.
“My school is very far from my village. It takes more than two hours to reach there. I am able to continue with my studies because my brother accompanies me. But there are many in my class who have stopped coming to school as they are scared to travel alone and they do not have money to pay for the transport. There is no hostel for girls,” said Varsha Sihem, a class 8 tribal student from Madhya Pradesh. The tribal students also demanded that the government “stop its policy of shutting down and merging schools based on the number of students attending them”.