Activists highlight functioning of ashram schools

Ashram schools were introduced in the 1960s and they are under the Department of Tribal Welfare.

Ashram schools were introduced in the 1960s and they are under the Department of Tribal Welfare.   | Photo Credit: M.A. SRIRAM

They want them to be brought under Department of Education

Tribal activists have drawn the attention of the government to the functioning of the ashram schools in the State and want a policy change so that they are brought under the Department of Education.

Ashram schools were introduced in the 1960s – though some of them were established earlier - and functions under the Department of Tribal Welfare.

However, the passout rate is reckoned to be meagre. “There are hardly a handful of graduate from these tribal communities though crores have been spent on them over many decades,” said M.B. Prabhu, social activist.

He said that given the high dropout rates and failure to even complete SSLC, none of them qualify for government jobs.

“Hence it is imperative to announce community-specific reservation for these primitive tribal groups. If they are brought under the Scheduled Tribes category, the benefits will be cornered by the other non-primitive communities,” he added.

S. Sreekanth, of Development through Education (DEED), said though they have been raising this issue for the last few decades it had fallen on deaf ears, and alleged that nobody in the government was serious about uplifting the standards of the ashram schools.

“There is an ashram School in Neralukuppe village in Hunsur taluk which is functioning for 60 years, but so far it has not produced a single graduate,” said Mr. Sreekanth.

Mr. Prabhu and his team recently completed an informal survey of the ashram schools in Karnataka and found out that there are nearly 116 such institutions catering to tribal communities.

The dropout rate is very high and even those who reach SSLC are unable to read or write properly, as per their findings.

“The highest post the tribals from Mysuru region aspire to reach is that of a mahout or a forest watcher which does not require any specific qualification,” said Mr. Prabhu.

The Ashram schools have no quality checks and the Department of Tribal Welfare is content ensuring timely food and nutrition to the children enrolled.

But education is not its domain and hence the schools should be brought under the Department of Education, argued Mr. Prabhu and Mr. Sreekanth.

The other factors responsible for the high dropout rate, is the medium of instruction. For the tribals, Kannada is as alien as English and hence it is imperative to develop modules and lessons to impart lessons in their respective mother tongues. Otherwise the concept of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education will be meaningless for them, according to Mr. Prabhu.

With the State Budget set to be tabled in the first week of March, a fresh attempt will be made to reach out to the government to highlight the predicament of the tribal students and seek policy changes for their betterment.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:06:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/activists-highlight-functioning-of-ashram-schools/article30813977.ece

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