Tamil Nadu

Children of tribal parents in Kadambur, Bargur hills stuck in vortex of penury


Steps taken to extend freebies to children enrolled in special schools

The prospects for socio-economic emancipation through education are not so bright for the 830-odd children, former child labourers, enrolled in 25 special schools on Kadambur and Bargur hills run under National Child Labour Project (NCLP).

For, there is no guarantee that they will remain in the school all through the year, despite the stipend.

Predominantly illiterate parents have not entirely given up the habit of taking their children to the bamboo and coffee plantations in Kerala and Karnataka. A section of the tribal communities on the hills take their children to sugarcane plantations in Erode and neighbouring districts as well.

The purpose of the NCLP schools is to mainstream the children into formal education system after a certain duration of learning.

Alongside the regular subjects, the children till the age of 14 are also given vocational training: sewing, handicraft making, and basket weaving.

Only a small percentage of the children pursue studies with interest and go on to enrol themselves in mainstream schools.

As for the rest, they simply accompany their parents for certain durations, spanning weeks usually, every year since there will be none to look after them even if they want to stay back.

The special schools function from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and most of the teachers reside locally, but there is no provision to house the children when their parents are away, according to N.S. Ramalingam, representative of a tribal community.

The district administration, it is learnt, has taken steps to extend to the children enrolled in special schools the freebies provided to students in government and aided schools, to motivate them to pursue education further.

Once the students complete level eight, they become eligible for accommodation in hostels run by the government to go on to the secondary and higher secondary levels, and subsequently, college, Field Officer of NCLP Vembu said.

Hundreds of children belonging to the Malayalee community get stranded ever so often.

Unlike in other districts, the community members living on the hills in Erode district face the predicament of forgoing higher education for want of Scheduled Tribe certification.

The Ooty-based Tribal Research Institute (TRI) has recommended their case for ST status for a second time after a census exercise in recent years.

As many as 4,000 children belonging to the Malayalee community living in 30 hamlets on Kadambur hills and 10 on Bargur hills had to discontinue studies due to lack of opportunities beyond level 8, the community members say.

Not a single person from the Malayalee community is in a government job, they lament.

The practice of parents taking children along for farm work is visible in Kalkadambur, Thondur, Thenkadu, Puliponkadu, Pavalakuttai, and Kali Malai Nadu on Kadambur hills and Meenthangi, Eppathapalayam, Thalvaraikadu, Guruvareddiyur, Olaiyur, and Sandhukaradu on Bargur hills, local sources said.

According to the elders in the tribal communities, unless alternative income-generation activities are provided for adults, and better facilities for children to pursue an education are ensured, the situation is unlikely to change.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:03:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/children-of-tribal-parents-in-kadambur-bargur-hills-stuck-in-vortex-of-penury/article7907169.ece

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