The indecisiveness on the part of the State government in implementing an official order issued last year to start 111 lower primary schools, replacing 374 single-teacher schools located in remote hilly areas and coastal belts, has been a major obstacle in improving the educational standards of tribespeople and fisherfolk.
It was under provisions of the Right to Education Act that the government had decided to start lower primary schools in extremely backward areas to replace single-teacher schools, better known as Multi-Grade Learning Centres (MGLCs).
The MGLCs — with 374 teachers who get a pittance every month as honorarium — teach as many as 11,888 most vulnerable and backward children. In the absence of government funding, these schools lack basic infrastructure. However, 90 per cent of tribal children in the State are depending on MGLCs for educational needs.
“As per the order, five LP schools were sanctioned for Palakkad district in the first phase and three among them were meant for Attappady.
At Kozhikkara in Attappady, a non-tribesman donated one acre of land for the sanctioned school. However, the order was not implemented even three weeks after the beginning of the new academic year,’’ said R.J. Rajendraprasad, a social worker who focusses on tribal education in Attappady.
MGLCs are in extreme crisis as teachers here receive a monthly salary of Rs.3,000 for working for more than 11 hours a day.
The MGLCs are functioning since in 1997 when they were formed as part of the World Bank-aided District Primary Education Project (DPEP).
“At Attappady alone, there were 23 MGLCs, with 600 tribal students. After the winding up of the DPEP, the Centre provided assistance to these schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The majority of the MGLCs are located in Palakkad, Malappuram, Thrissur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasaragod, Ernakulam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta, and Thiruvanathapuram districts.
“Despite the meagre payment, we have to multitask to run the schools. The roles include that of a teacher, caretaker, peon, cook, administrator, and counsellor. Most schools are located in remote areas close to forests, dodging wild elephants,” P.K. Muraleedharan, a single teacher at the remote Edamalakkudy in Idukki, said.
All these teachers are working without any hike in their honorariums for about two decades.