DROP-OUT AMONG THE MUTHUVAN CHILDREN
Drop out is an evil of primary education. Primary education is imparted with two main objectives as to make the children literate and to prepare them for becoming responsible citizen of the country. So the children to be literate should have at least four years schooling and to be a responsible citizen most have and eight years of schooling. The drop out pupils of the study area is large. So it is very important to analyze the cause for drop out.
REASON FOR DROP-OUTS
The reasons for drop-out are depending on family status, economic imposition, bi-lingual education, lack of interest, etc. Among the Muthuvans it was found that the problem of dropout is not an isolated phenomenon, but it may be attributed to so many other facts.
1. Economic Backwardness
The Muthuvans depend on agriculture for their subsistence. Further they also engaged in wage labour and each family income ranges from Rs 800/-to Rs.1000/-per month. As such they find it difficult for them to spend hard earnings on the expenses of their children’s education.
Though majority of the families depended on agricultural produce and collection of Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP), barter system has no longer very much effective in their daily living. Everything has a price now a days including education. Exploitation of non-tribes in procurement of agricultural produce from Muthuvans and consequently trap in vicious cycle of indebtedness accentuated the problem of poverty. Due to their poor economic condition, children assist their parents in familial subsistence. As such this drop-out problem is perpetuating in the study area.
2. Socio-cultural factors
Socio-cultural practices of Muthuvans play a significant role in the overall development of children in the study village. The formal education which is imparted to Muthuvan children is devoid of learning about their own society and their vernacular language, they are forced to learn alphabets in alien language.
Even the teachers are not well versed with Muthuvan language and they teach in text book language. They are not bothered about whether the children are capable of understanding what they are taught. It is the fact that despite their tradition and culture these societies have to accept the innovation for getting employment. But they feel that the medium of instruction should be local up to primary level and the syllabus should be based on their culture and society. Lack of such amenable medium of instruction and territorial based education causing lot of confusion among the children. Eventually they turn down this education under those psychological pressure and phobia about the formal education.
3. Non-availability of facilities
All the settlements had primary schools and Anganwadies, but these settlements do not have Middle school and High Schools. The Primary Schools in the study area was working with a single teacher in a small hut having only one room. All the students from Standard I to Standard IV were sitting in the same class room and the single teacher managed all the classes. Further analysis of the reasons for dropout showed that after the attainment of puberty girls never allowed to go to schools, in addition to this their economic conditions also forced them to dropout. The dropout generally occurred after the child completed the school. Where schools are not located at close quarters from the settlements, rates of dropout as well as non-enrollment are high. There is a natural hesitation on the part of most parents to send children to schools located at a distance.
Lack of appropriate atmosphere of schooling, continuous attendance, parental interest, study interest are some of the important problems of education faced by Muthuvan children. Few teachers perceived economic problems, inadequacy of clothing, lack of books and stationery as the reasons for poor attendance of students.
Poverty coupled with insufficient infrastructure is responsible for the prevalence of large scale drop out among the tribal children. The Muthuvan settlements are located in forest belts. Often children have to walk through wild animal infested forest tracts to reach the nearest school. This is a big safety risk. For example, not a single child in the school going age in the settlements in the midst of Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary was going to school, where the schools are located away from the settlement. The Muthuvans are especially apprehensive about sending girls through lonely forest tracts for a very genuine fear. Many a time not only they encounter wild elephants but also ‘wild and lusty men’. There have been instances when forest contractors, non-tribal men in the neighbouring villages have tried to make sexual advance at these young girls.
PRE-METRIC HOSTEL FOR FEMALE CHILDREN
The Kerala state provided a boarding institution for tribal girls- pre-metric hostel as it is called, in Marayoor, the nearby town of the study area, for the convenience of the tribal girls who are coming from the remote settlements. The hostel has now thirty-two boarders who are students in Government-run and private schools. Of them, only six are from Muthuvan community. As Muthuvans consider themselves as superior to the other tribes they do not prefer to admit their children to the hostel where they would have to live, interdine, and interact with the Malapulaya children. Muthuvans are claiming superior status over Malapulayas. The school dropout rate among Muthuvan children is said to be considerably high. It would seem that besides their hesitancy to stay and interact with Malapulaya children, Muthuvan children who are used to high altitudes and evergreen forest habitat and associated way of living find the hostel and school alienating. The resistance of Muthuvan parents to their children intermingling with Malapulaya children is very high. This also forms one of the reasons for not sending the children in the schools away from Muthuvan hamlet.
Low literacy among the Muthuvan tribe in general and women in particular, presents a very serious problem. The demand side of labour market has a feedback effect on the investment decisions on the Muthuvans in education. They are relayed on agriculture for their livelihood. The Muthuvans consider both boys and girls as economic asset to the family, therefore sending them to school upsets the traditional pattern of division of labour. Muthuvan girls usually help their mothers at home in all possible ways and work in the field in the agricultural seasons. In non-agricultural seasons they are usually engaged in the collection of minor forest produces, grazing cattle and goats, under these circumstances parents never force the children to go to school at all. Although economic constraints hinder tribal girls from getting educated, cultural, social and family structures also contribute to the tremendous variation in dropout rates of girls among the Muthuvans.
Besides going to school majority of the Muthuvan girls are managing the household chores, taking care of the younger children, helping in the agricultural activities, collecting minor forest produces and firewood. They also bring water from the far away pipes and looking after the livestock. Parents want the children to help them in agriculture and other allied activities. On the top of that, school vacations are not synchronized with the heavy agricultural seasons of sowing or harvesting. So the parents cannot be faulted for pulling out their children for getting of little extra help. The study area has only primary and middle level schools. After completing middle level education, they are unable to go to town for higher education due to cultural and safety reasons as mentioned earlier.
The Muthuvan literacy level, in general is quite low. But in case of Muthuvan women it touches the lowest bottom. Muthuvans as settled agriculturalists lack enough food grains to maintain the family whole year. Education therefore is a luxury for them which they can hardly afford. Each school- going girl in a Muthuvan family is an economic unit and contribute to the family. If the girl is taken away from her normal economic work to attend school, the family is deprived of little income which she brings; instead, the parents have to feed the child out of their earnings which further reduces the economic stability of the family.
Merely increasing the number of schools in tribal areas or throwing up superficial incentives per se will not bring development to the doors of the tribal women or girl children. The actual needs and real life situations have to be taken cognizance of while planning schemes for tribal development. In order to facilitate tribal girls to make extensive and effective use of schooling facilities, schools must be located within easy and safe reach of children. This definitely is a meaningful incentive for a large number of tribal parents who are desirous of sending their children schools. One cannot expect young girls to walk for miles through dangerous animal and human infested forest tracks. It is easier to offer scholarships and gold medals to successful tribal learners than opening new schools in distant tribal belts or removing the actual hurdles to effective utilization of existing facilities.
The introduction of formal education is not without any negative impact. A set of values totally alien to the Muthuvan culture have now been introduced to their community. Often, the curricular content of class room training is in direct contradiction to their real life experiences. Barring a few exceptions tribal education programmes do not take into account the needs and conditions of tribal life and culture. A curriculum that is alien to their culture and ways of life leaves them confused. Such concepts as ‘the father being the sole bread earner’, ‘mother attends only to household chores’, ‘boys playing out-door games and girls engaged in domestic work’ leaves them perturbed. Even the gender insensitive games that are taught in the non- tribal schools do not have positive attitude towards tribal values. The non-tribal culture at large does not have a very pro-women attitude and the same is reflected in the attitude of these teachers towards female children. The teacher addressed the girls as ‘waste’, ‘burden’, and scolded them whenever they did not show interest in the lessons or failed to answer their questions. They made a point to repeatedly remind the female students that their place was in the home and that kitchen work does not require any formal schooling. Teachers with such attitudes are doing great damage to the motivation of girl children because of their gender blind attitudes. Ideas that had hitherto not crept into Muthuvan mind have now been introduced. Many female teachers also act as a negative, influence on women and girl children. They express their displeasure and disapproval about such tribal practices as elopement, divorce and widow marriage. These young children are slowly developing a sense of aversion towards their indigenous practices, many of which are very progressive.