Education is a treasure, which can be preserved without fear of loss. It is the process of learning aimed at the all round development of every tribes irrespective of location, age and sex. Government has formulated various schemes for the education of tribal community. But the schemes could not make much headway in developing the social and economical status of ethnic community. The tribal people of India have got a heterogeneous cultural pattern with varied economic conditions and activities, largely conditioned by ecological settings and their environment. The historical evidence reveals that they associated themselves with the forests which provided them all their day-to-day requirements. Even today, majority of the tribal population in India continue to depend on forests for their day-to-day existence. Orissa is one of the states in India, which can boast of a vast tribal population belonging to diverse races and culture. According to the 2001 census, there are 81,45,081 tribals staying in Orissa, which constitutes 22.18% of the total population of the state. Majority of tribal population, 88.56 per cent of the State’s tribal population are living in the southern and northern regions. There are 62 tribal groups speaking more than 40 languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, and Munda families of languages. Scripts were developed for the Santal, Sora, Ho and Kui tribal communities. Some of the tribal languages died totally, a case of linguistic genocide, as these languages could not be maintained and developed.
Majority of the tribal population are living below the poverty line and facing the problems like indebtedness, illiteracy, malnutrition and exploitation. The interior tribals still live relatively in isolation. The majorities of the tribal population in Orissa are living in difficult conditions and depend on local access to land and forests for their livelihood. The tribal populations are often underserved and are handicapped by the lack of education, quality health services, and alternate work opportunities. Among the tribal population in Orissa, the literacy rate is very low as compared against the non-tribal districts in the state. It is found that the females were far behind the males in literacy rate in tribal community. The absence of upper primary school and high school within the tribal area was reported to be the major stumbling block for increasing the percentage of enrolment at upper primary and secondary levels of education.
The tribal district of Malkangiri has the lowest literacy rate of 31.26 per cent as against 80.19 in Khurda district, which includes the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Koraput district has a literacy rate of 36.20 per cent; Nabarangpur has 34.26 per cent; Gajapati has 41.73 per cent; Kalahandi has 46.20 per cent; Mayurbhanj has 52.43 per cent and Keonjhar has 59.75 per cent. When efforts for universalization of primary education are being intensified, the enrolment of tribal children and heavy dropout rate are two major issues which needs to be addressed. However, Sundargarh has a literacy rate of 65.22 per cent. This is primarily because of industrialisation and the establishment of industrial towns, such as Rourkela, and the role played by Christian missionaries. But the remote areas of the district, where people have little access to education and health care, still remain backward in education.
The dropout rate among children belonging to scheduled tribes is highest when compared to general population. The dropout rate among the scheduled tribes in primary stage (i.e. I to VIIth class) is about 84.72%. The dropout rate among scheduled tribe girls is about 89.20%. It clearly shows that the tribal parents are not in favour of girl’s education. The major reasons for dropout are poverty, inaccessibility for good educational institutions, lack of awareness about advantage and utility of education, language problem (medium of instruction), lack of sufficient infrastructure facilities, lack of good number of qualified and committed teachers, defective course content for the tribal areas and local cultural traditions. Majority of the tribal parents are not showing much interest to send their children to the school due to economic reasons and they considered their children as economic asset to them. Large majority of the school age children among the tribals are not psychologically comfortable to enroll in the school and their mental attitudes always bending towards the traditional cultural activities. Even the children contribute their family incomes. The informal education to the illiterate youth is much needed to solve this kind of problem in the tribal areas. Their participation in school education system is much essential for the success of the educational programmes in tribal areas. No doubt the teacher plays a crucial role to increase the student’s enrolment and reduce the dropout rate in tribal areas. Qualified teachers with good communication skills in local dialects at the initial stage for introducing the tribal children into the school system are much needed to strengthen the education in tribal areas. The spread of literacy is undoubtedly one of the most important parameters of social and cultural development among the tribal societies. The various dimensions of socio-cultural change in a tribal society can be understood in the light of the levels of literacy and education. The lower the level of literacy, the less is the contact and interaction with the non-tribal groups and the lower is the social and cultural development.
The huge public investments and growth so far have been concentrated in a few pockets of the State. Some tribal districts have a high concentration of mining activities and many polluting sponge iron units with little development in the condition of the tribal population. Broad-based growth would essentially mean development of infrastructure and making education and health care reach the remote areas and the tribal-dominated districts. Government of Orissa always plays a constructive role towards the development of tribal community. But the tribal people need, and deserve, something better than what either the government can offer or any individual.
Devi Prasad Mahapatra,
The author is a media researcher and having five years experience in the field of Public Relations and Media Relations. His qualifications include Master in Journalism and Mass Communication, and having special papers Advertising and Public Relations.