The state of Kerala has been gaining recognition not only for its progressive policies but also for its innovative programmes.
The state, which boasts of the highest literacy rate in India at 93.91%, began extending its educational endeavour to include tribal communities in the region. The initiative was first implemented in Palakkad district’s Attapadi and later in the Wayanad region of Kerala, where the state’s tribal population is most heavily concentrated.
Many belong to the Kattunaikka and Paniya communities.
Launched by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority, the first phase of the programme successfully taught 5729 tribal people from 283 hamlets, according to a report by The Hindu.
Not only did they learn how to read and write, but programme conductors also noted positive lifestyle changes; lower use of alcohol and tobacco, and an increase in hygiene.
Here’s how it worked.
1. Officials travelled to Adivasis homes to understand their problems and current situation.
“We personally went to several houses in tribal hamlets and invited them to come and learn with us. They felt motivated because they felt like they would benefit from the literacy scheme. We took the time to listen to their issues, while we were developing the curriculum”, says Coordinator, Projects and Programme, Mr Rameshkumar.
2. The course not only incorporated reading and writing but addressed issues of direct relevance to the Adivasi community.
They did not merely write letters and numbers, but read and wrote about various government schemes, issues related to health awareness and the different laws the government has put in place regarding tribals.
In other words, they learn about their rights. It serves as motivation to attend classes, and reduce dropout rates, according to Mr Rameshkumar.
3. The instructors themselves come from tribal backgrounds.
“We train those who are interested in education, teaching them the methods and curriculum of how to educate others. Once they have been trained, they teach the tribal community. This works especially well because, initially, they can communicate in their own language. This is something we cannot offer. It helps them grasp concepts much better before we switch to Malayalam”, he explains.
4. People above 35 were targeted.
Rather than educating children, this programme focused on the middle-aged population, something rather unique. A majority of the participants in the program are close to 35 years of age.
So, why this age? Mr Rameshkumar explains that it is because these people can be educated, and will, in turn, be able to educate their own children, creating awareness in the household as well.
In the future, the KSLMA plans to expand operations throughout the state to increase education amongst the tribal population.
Not only will they be educating up to a fourth standard level, but are also undergoing the process of introducing seventh and tenth standard material into the programme.
“If there is no forest, there is no land. These Adivasis have valuable knowledge. They know nature like no other. If we can harness their knowledge and help them develop their own skills through education, we stand much to gain”, he adds.