Formal education is considered as important tools for social change and development. Formal education can be broadly divided in to two, primary and secondary education. Primary education is intended for all children aged between 4 years to 12 years where as secondary education is provided for children aged 12 years and above. In general any type of education oral or written is the action of developing the individual mentally and morally.
For primary education in all the study villages government established primary schools with a single hut class room which will house all the students up to IV standard, handled by a single teacher. Muthuvans send their children to school up to primary level. To attract the children to school, government provides many facilities for students in primary level. All students in the primary school are provided with book, pencils, and slates for free of cost. Government also provided mid-day meal to all students in the primary level. In mid day meal per day 150 gram rice and 30 gram dal and 2 eggs in a week are provided.
Children above the IV standard will be sent to the tribal hostels and tribal schools away in the block or district headquarters. But once they come for vacation, majority of them never return to hostels. The strange life style and schedule at the hostel, being away from the parents and the village, missing all the cultural and social freedom, all these make them quit the hostels and keep them still close to illiteracy. Like any other people they too feel comfortable to speak their own language and dialect, the ‘enavan pech’ (our own speech).
LITERACY TRENDS AMONG THE MUTHUVAN WOMEN
Among the Muthuvans the demand for education is much lower than as compared to other tribes in Kerala. Muthuvan women have to work in order to cope with their daily living and do not place a high value on education. Additionally, in the remote Muthuvan hamlets where a good infrastructure is lacking, women find it difficult to have access to schools. Many are not even aware of the existence of schools in their areas due to lack of communications and networks.
LITERACY LEVEL OF THE MUTHUVAN WOMEN
Even though Kerala has a high literacy rate even in the rural areas (90.9 per cent), women among the Muthuvan tribe are still lagging behind in literacy (36.98 per cent compared to the women literacy rate of Kerala, 87.80 per cent). The general trend of high female literacy rates in Kerala and the high status of women in the state have no impact on the literacy rate among the Muthuvan women because of their isolation and living in the dense forest away from the main stream.
Considering the educational qualification of the women respondents in the study area, out of the total 211 respondents 71.09 per cent are illiterate, 18.48 per cent studied up to the primary level, 10.5 per cent were in the Middle school level. Only two respondents were studied up to Higher Secondary Level and two were studied up to graduate level.
Due to the provision of incentives such as mid- day meal programmes and distribution of uniforms, there is a slight increase in the number of children who go to school. In the sample population, Muthuvans in the age group of 5 to 19 years showed some inclination towards schooling. Out of 92 boys and 83 girls, 81.66 per cent boys (75 boys) and 80.53 per cent (67 girls) attended school. These are obviously the first generation learners because the largest number, 82.66 per cent boys (62 out of 75 boys) and 79.10 per cent girls (53 out of 67 girls) were in the primary school. The number of girls and boys in the Middle and High school were meager. There are many reasons for this condition. Non-availability of middle schools in the vicinity of tribal settlements as well as the failure of ITDP schools in the state of Kerala to offer Middle schools and High Schools is the two most important reasons for the educational backwardness of tribal children. Poverty of the parents is yet another reason. Above all they are still unaware of the importance of education.
EDUCATION OF THE MUTHUVAN GIRL CHILDREN
The girl child among the Muthuvans is denied the future opportunity of the total development. The reasons associated with not educating girl child are financial constraints, early marriage, submissiveness, and motherhood. After attaining puberty, Muthuvan girls are not allowed to go to school even if the school is located in the settlement itself. Girls have no say on the topic of education. It is entirely their parent’s decision. Regarding their aspiration to educate their daughters, the parents had different response. More than half of them wanted to send their daughters to schools but others thought it was futile. In absence of hired labour, the girls work at home and fields is of utmost importance and all considered the fact that eventually the girls have to get married and start their families. Where parents are enthusiastic about educating their daughters, they enroll their daughters in schools but rarely allow them to complete their schooling. The girls study up to primary school only; since there is no middle school in their area they have to go to town to continue their education. The Muthuvans are reluctant to send their girl children out of their settlements since they are very much concerned about the safety of their daughters. Thus they discontinue their education at the primary level and turn to household chores and agricultural activities.
From early childhood itself Muthuvan girls play a prominent role in running the family. By the age of 12-14 years most of the girls join the agricultural force. The girls also supplement the household income through their labour-force and also participate in minor forest produce collection. If they have spare time in spite of all these activities and obtain permission from their parents then they may go to school.
According to 47.86 per cent of the respondents the reason for their present educational status is that the facilities were not available for them to get educated, 0.94 per cent revealed that girls education was not allowed, 6.16 per cent said the reason that because of agricultural activities and household chores they did not get time to study, 3.31 per cent opined that they did not have any interest to study since this education is worth less for them on account of that they are staying in the forest and they possess enough knowledge from the forest itself to cope with their lives.
Out of 211 respondents 93.36 per cent are ready to send girl children to school up to primary level, while 6.63 per cent shows unwillingness to send their girl children to school. They are of the opinion that girl children should first learn how to manage household chores and agricultural activities as they have to manage her husband’s house after marriage.
From early childhood to begin with, girl children are trained in various domestic chores. As soon as girl is grown up enough to play she is regarded old enough to work. She may be seen assisting her mother in all domestic work bringing fuel from the forest, carrying water from the nearby pipe and by attending to small babies. She has to attend all kinds of domestic work. When the girl children started to manage the household mother can go for agricultural activities without any hindrance.
In absence of hired labour, the girls work at home and fields is of utmost importance and all considered the fact that eventually the girls have to get married and start their families. Other than going school 50.23 per cent of the girl children were managing the household chores, helping in agricultural activities and taking care of the younger children. Even if the schools were located in their hamlet itself, due to these work burdens girl children were always withdrawn from the schools.