For the 5,000-odd tribal people of Wayanad, March 25 may prove to be a momentous day, as most of them will be facing the first ever examination in their lifetime, and clearing it will make them the proud holders of fourth standard pass-out certificates.
The first phase of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority’s fourth standard equivalent course has evoked overwhelming response in the tribal hamlets of Wayanad. At the last count, 5,729 participants from 283 tribal hamlets were actively participating in the programme. KSLMA proposes to run similar campaigns in tribal-dominated areas across the State shortly.
The authority ventured into the tribal belt of Wayanad with its literacy programme after a similar project in the Attappadi region of Palakkad proved a remarkable success. The programme aims at eliminating illiteracy among tribal community members, rekindling a passion for learning among them through equivalent courses, and imparting civic sense through education.
“I had been in Wayanad for three days recently to take stock of the progress of the programme and found the response from the targeted communities phenomenal. For the time being, we are focusing on fourth standard equivalent course but have plans to introduce seventh, tenth and higher secondary equivalent courses gradually with the expansion of the programme to more tribal areas in the district,” said P.S. Sreekala, Director, KSLMA.
Initially, around 300 among the 2,975 tribal colonies are being targeted, accounting for 31,831 people. Majority of them belong to Paniya and Kattunaikka communities. A survey covering the colonies found that there were 9,751 illiterates of whom 6,044 were women. Among illiterates, 5,474 are aged between 15 and 50 years, while 4,277 are above 50. According to the 2011 Census, of Wayanad’s total population of 8,17,420, tribal people accounted for 1,51,443, the highest concentration in the State.
KSLMA was careful to ensure that at least half of the 600 instructors selected for the project were from tribal communities. Experienced Preraks have also been deployed to coordinate the programme in association with local bodies.
“We have also noted positive lifestyle changes among the participants of the literacy programme. For instance, chewing of tobacco and alcohol consumption have dropped significantly, while there is a better sense of hygiene among them now,” said Ms. Sreekala.
However, a worrying factor is that a large number of school dropouts, aged less than 15 years, are outside the ambit of KSLMA.
Isolation in classes and the long distance between their hamlets and schools were found to be the two predominant factors behind school dropout.