One out of five tribal children in the age group 7-14 years is illiterate in Madhya Pradesh, new official data show, which experts attribute to the overall lag in development of these communities in the state.
Recently-released census figures on age-wise literacy rates show that as much as 20.17% of the tribal children in the age group are illiterate.
According to census definition “a person aged 7 years and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language is taken as literate. A person who can only read but cannot write is not literate (is illiterate).”
The percentage of scheduled caste (SC) children categorised as illiterate (10.05%) is less than half of the scheduled tribe (ST) children, according to Census 2011 released by the Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India last week.
The overall illiteracy rate among children in age group of 7-14 years is 11.43%.
Across India, more than 2.51 crore children in the age group of 7-14 years are illiterate and 6.1% of them (15.42 lakh) are in MP.
Experts say that the poor literacy rate among tribal children is the reflection of overall lag in development of these communities in the state.
“Tribal communities are far below par in almost all development indicators and we are trying to remedy this through a long-drawn community leadership programme,” principal secretary of tribal development department BR Naidu said.
The tribal development department runs schools in the tribal-majority areas. Naidu said that while specific talent hunt programmes are underway in some of these schools, a special strategy in needed to address the issue of basic literacy.
Nirmala Buch, president of the Child Rights Observatory of MP that analysed the census figures, said that one of the most important interventions needed is that of remedial classes for the children with poor learning abilities right from nursery levels.
Education specialist of UNICEF, MP, FA Jami said that this is a challenge that requires innovative and out of box solutions to improve schools, as routine trainings and monitoring are failing to deliver needed results.
“The uniform approach ignores the diverse language and learning need of children from tribal communities. Accountability mechanisms from schools to higher level need to be strengthened,” he said.