Literacy among tribal Girls and women- “an overview”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the World”- Nelson Mandela

By Jyotirmayee Mohapatra

Literacy and Educational attainment is one of the important indicator of any  country’s level of human development. Education is essential for everybody irrespective of gender, caste, class, colour and creed , it  is essential for both men and women. Education is a tool that enable women to find the right path  for their overall  growth and development.  Even today in most of the  States  the tribal women are suffering  due to blind beliefs, superstitions, orthodoxy and ignorance, though  Scheduled tribe women and Girls are guaranteed Constitutional rights as well as rights under specific laws constituted by Parliament, especially for PESA( Panchayats ( Extension to Scheduled areas)  areas.

There are about 550 tribes in India. As per Census 1951, 5.6% of the total population of the country was tribal. According to Census 2011,the number of scheduled tribes in India is 10,42,81,034, which is 8.6% of the total population, where as,  as per census 2001 the tribal population was  8.2%. During 2001-2011 the decadal  growth rate of the population of India was 17.64%. During this period the decadal growth rate of the scheduled tribes was 23.7%.  The decadal growth rate of the scheduled tribes in rural areas was less i.e 21.3% where as it was more i.e 49.7% in urban areas.

There has been a considerable increase in the literacy rates of tribals from 1961 to 2001 i.e 8.53 to 47.10. The Literacy rates among females also raised significantly during this period. Among the tribal women, living in urban areas there is nearly four fold increase in the literacy rates i.e. 13.45 in 1961 to 59.87 in 2001. Simultaneously the literacy rates among rural tribal women also increased from 2.90% to 32.44% during these four decades. This is due to the continuous efforts of the Government and Non government organisations  towards educational development among Scheduled Tribes.

As per Census 2011, the rate of literacy in India is 72.99% whereas
that of it in scheduled tribes is 59%. State-wise, the rate of literacy in scheduled tribes is highest in Mizoram (91.7%) and lowest in Andhra Pradesh (49.2%). Among union territories, the highest rate of literacy in scheduled tribes is in Lakshadweep (91.7%). The census 2011 data also indicate that  some states with higher concentration of tribal population have been doing extremely  well. They are Mizoram(91.5%), Nagaland(80.0%), Manipur(77.4%) and Meghalaya (74.5%). Where as some states with more number of tribal habitations continue to perform very low. They are Jharkhand(57.1%),Madhya Pradesh(50.6%),Orissa(52.2%),Rajasthan(52.2%) and Andhra Pradesh (49.2%).

The overall literacy rate of the Schedule Tribe in Odisha increased from 23.4% in 2001 to 41.2% in 2011. Despite this improvement it remained lower than the national average which stood at 47.1 per cent. (Source: Data highlights: the scheduled tribes Census of India 2011)

The tribal drop-outs at primary, upper primary and secondary level was much higher than that of the general population in 2001- 02. The data on drop-out rates for the period 2005-06 to 2011-12 indicate a decreasing trend and hence an improvement in the status of school-going tribal children at all levels. During 2005-06 to 2011-12, the all India dropout rates fell down by 3.4 per cent for all children in classes 1-5 and 4.5 per cent for tribal children. In 2010-11, the dropout rate in 1st to 5th standard got reduced in all cases including ST children. ( Source: Internet selected Educational statistics)

However, the same phenomenon is not noticed in higher classes. On the contrary, the dropout rate increased in 7th to 10th classes in rural areas. The reasons for girls dropping out of schools have been varied. It could be due to the impact of external factors like lack of security of the girl while travelling to school, lack of security at school premises, lack of or no separate functional toilets for girls in school, lack of female teacher in schools and internal factors like the understanding of the need for education for a girl child by the parents, not interested in studies,  most of the parents belief a girls future is linked to marriage and child bearing,  girls are required for domestic work/household work, getting married in early age, girls are required for the care of siblings  at home etc. It requires to train and educate the parents and to create consciousness in them to send their girl children to schools and colleges as well as there is a need to create interest among the girls towards education  through counselling, sharing success stories, motivational talks etc.

The government of India has introduced Various gender specific schemes and programmes  at different  phases of time with the objective to encourage girls literacy. To encourage Girls   education State government of Odisha  has provided scholarships  to students  both at pre-matriculation  and post –matriculation  levels, boarding and hostel facilities for girls, bicycles for girls  and exclusive schools for the  girls from marginalised communities.  The government has given special focus on Educational and other infrastructure development in schools in tribal and backward areas through various schemes to improve retention rate and to check drop out among underprivileged students.

The main aim of taking steps to encourage  scheduled tribe women and girls to educate  is to change their patterns of life, to make them economically independent, to motivate them to organise themselves, to educate them to  understand their rights and responsibilities, to make them understood their situations, analyse the situations and enable them to participate meaningfully  and contribute for their overall development, development of women and girls and development of the society as a whole.

The population of STs is very high in some states and in some states there are no STs. With regard to the literacy rates, female literacy has raised considerably in the past four decades both in urban as well as rural areas. Moreover the percentage of Schedule Tribe girls in higher education has been gradually increasing.

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