LITERACY LEVEL OF TRIBES IN KERALA
In all the five year plans, priority was given to educational development of the Scheduled Tribes. The main reason for the very slow spread of education among the Scheduled Tribes is the peculiar nature of their habitation. Majority of the Scheduled Tribes are living in remote areas far away from educational institutions. The socio-economic condition prevailing in the tribal settlements are not conducive for studies. Lacks of sufficient educational institutions in tribal areas, their poverty etc, curtailed effective educational development among Scheduled Tribes. However, the literacy rate of the tribes in Kerala (64.9 per cent) is far ahead of the tribal areas in India (47.10 per cent) and even higher than the literacy rate of the total population of the country (64.8 per cent).
The Muthuvans are very poor. Many of the students discontinue schools at Primary and Middle school due to financial difficulties. Though the state and central government is providing enough financial assistance in the form of scholarship, free boarding, lodging facilities, provision to text books and mid-day meals in primary schools, stipend and hostel facilities, not many tribal children are attracted to education. The Muthuvans have not been earning much to educate themselves. Their cultural surrounding and poverty creates hindrances in the process of their education.
NON-FORMAL EDUCATION AMONG THE MUTHUVANS
Among the Muthuvans the dormitories were a kind of training institution for unmarried boys and girls. It is in this Chaavati (male dormitory) and Kumari Madam ( girl’s dormitory) that the traditions were passed from mouth to mouth, from older age group to youths and from youths to younger ones. The parents and the elders of the village initiate the child into different customs and traditions of their community and group.
The dormitory system exist as a kind of school where the Muthuvan youths of either sex learn how to perform their conjugal and social duties as also the lore of the clan. These Muthuvan dormitories are chiefly meant for imparting social education to the Muthuvan children. Muthuvan dormitory especially the Chaavati functions as if it is a club, a place for juvenile happiness, a non-formal school, and also a training center for children for making the Muthuvan boys as mature community members. At least up to the second quarter of the 20th century Muthuvan’s had both male and female dormitories (Krishna Iyer, 1939; Luiz, 1962) to train their youths to a useful and mature community member. But now the female dormitories (kumari madam- where ‘kumari’ indicate the young unmarried-girls, ‘madam’ indicates dwelling) had undergone a process of decay.
The Muthuvan dormitory (Chaavati) acts as a club for members to come together to share traditional experience. Their folk-tales, folk-songs and folk dances reveals lessons in different agricultural operations, hunting, wood cutting, honey collection, and in economic pursuits. These stories and anecdotes speak about sanctity of Muthuvan discipline, social approbation, social justice, law and order in their community. Chaavati enables them to get to know how to protect the community by learning the ways of defence against animal raids and enemy attacks, teaches them how to be useful for the community through co-operative labour, enables to know the community rituals and rites and also how to participate in them, provides an avenue to be community conscious and corporate in their feelings and actions thus making them responsible to the community. Members are also taught how to make fishing nets, traps, mats, ornaments etc., whereas in formal schools this kind of activities are absolutely not seen and home could not attract the Muthuvan children. From the dormitory, each Muthuvan acquire the knowledge about the flora and fauna, the forest track path, medicinal plants for various diseases and so on. In the Chaavati Muthuvan children are properly educated in order to face future eventualities of life and cope ages with the cultural requirements.