Odisha school dropouts among tribals, Dalits very high
Death of five tribal students in fire accident in A.P. points to the grim picture of the rising rate
The last week’s death of five tribal students, who had skipped studies to work in a shrimp processing unit in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh for supporting their families’ income, in a fire accident has laid bare the grim picture of the rising rate of school dropouts in Odisha during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government suspects missing of nearly 50,000 students from the education system alone from the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste communities.
The tragic incident had taken place in Guntur district when six persons, including the five students, were burnt alive while sleeping in a makeshift house at the shrimp processing unit. They were studying in Class VII to X in different schools of Rayagada and Gajapati districts.
When a bus was sent from Rayagada district to bring back labourers from the same locality in Guntur district on August 1, there were more surprises in store.
“As many as 33 migrant labourers from Rayagada district had boarded the bus to return home. Shockingly, we found that 15 of them were minor, mostly tribal. Seven students had given up studies afresh,” said Gunupur MLA Raghunath Gamango.
The major reasons
Prolonged closure of schools, lack of access to Internet, inability to afford smartphones and students being lured into migrating to earn quick bucks are stated to be the major reasons for children disappearing from the education scene.
An ongoing survey in Rayagada district says 1,700 school students have dropped out from Class I to X. The number is likely to go up exponentially.
“We are conducting enumeration to find out as to how many students have dropped out during pandemic and reasons for their decision,” said Rayagada District Collector Saroj Kumar Mishra.
Migration to A.P.
The majority of children aged below 18 migrate to Andhra Pradesh to work in prawn processing industries. School dropouts have been reported from southern Odisha districts such as Koraput, Malkangiri, Gajapati, Rayagada, Ganjam and Nabarangpur.
“We have come across instances of dropout among girls mainly because of early marriage, while boys are migrating for work. However, we are streamlining our tracking system and reaching out to children in distress,” said Guha Poonam Tapas Kumar, Director of Scheduled Tribe in ST and SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Department, which manages 1,734 residential schools.
When asked about the number of children leaving their studies midway, Ms. Kumar said, “we don’t have exact statistics on school dropout. But it is about 50,000. We have found a decrease in the number of students this year by 50,000 compared to the 2019-2020 academic year.”
“We are making efforts to bring them back to hostels and motivate them to come back to the education system. A series of instructions has been issued to District Welfare Officers to find out these 50,000 students. Pre-matric scholarship and pandemic assistance announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will be transferred to their accounts, apart from those of regular students,” she added.