Special Correspondent

Early marriage is one of the reasons

Teaching methods are not linked to tribal culture and life style

Many parents feel if their daughters are educated it will be difficult to find grooms

Udhagamandalam: The rate of school dropouts among the tribal girls in the Nilgiris was alarmingly high when compared to other scheduled tribes in Tamil Nadu.

This was revealed in a study conducted by the Director, Tribal Research Centre (TRC), Jakka Parthasarathy.

The compilation containing details of the study commissioned under the Hill Area Development Programme (HADP) was released on Saturday by the Secretary Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare C. Muthukumaraswamy. The first copy was received by the Project Director, HADP, C. Samayamoorthy.

The study which traced the history of formal education in the Nilgiris district since 1881 found that among the Todas the female literacy rate was 17.29 per cent and the rate of girls dropping out was 45.22 per cent. Amongthe Kotas it was 19.90 and 18.51 respectively.

Among the Alu Kurumbas the female literacy rate was 9.37 per cent while it was 14.11 among the Jenu Kurumbas, 4.52 among the Betta Kurumbas,13.24 among the Mullu Kurumbas and 6.05 among the Urali Kurumbas.

While the dropout rate among the Alu Kurumbas was as high as 71.20 per cent, it was only 23.05 among the Mullu Kurumbas. Among the Irulas the female literacy rate was 11.30 per cent and dropout rate 57.63 per cent. Among the Paniyans it was 5.87 and 86.50. Among the Kattunayakans it was 8.90 and 81.45.

A number of reasons have been identified for the tribal girls dropping out. While early marriage was one of the main reasons, their full time involvement in economic activities and performing domestic chores also prevented them from attending classes.

The practice of dividing labour particularly among the poverty stricken Kurumba, Paniyan and Kattunayakan societies did not give time for the girls to go to schools.

At primary levels the girls found it difficult to follow Tamil. The teaching methods adopted in the schools were not linked to tribal culture, folklore, tales, legends and life style.

In the hostels they found it difficult to stay with non-tribals. The community-wise allocation in the Government Tribal Residential (GTR) schools was 30.99 per cent for ST boys, 28.86 per cent for ST girls and 40.15 per cent other students.

However, there were discrepancies in admitting students.

For instance in the GTR middle school at Devala near Gudalur out of the total number of students only 14.03 per cent belonged to tribal communities.

Many of the parents felt that if their daughters were educated it would be difficult to find educated grooms. Since most of the girls did not stay in the GTR school hostels, they found it difficult to trek over several kilometres through the forests to reach their schools.

There was also the constant fear of the girls being attacked by wild animals. The girls did not like the conditions in the GTR schools.