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Scholars write a script for Rabari nomads

Researchers Caroline Dyer and Archana Choksi stayed with the Rabaris for an year and helped the nomads learn how to read and write.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2004 01:09 IST

A literacy programme for the nomads needs to be scientific and it must recognize wanderlust as an irrepressible trait, says an Economic and Social Research Council (UK) study.

These are conclusions researchers Caroline Dyer and Archana Choksi drew after they had lived and moved with a group of Rabaris for a year. Their study aimed to help the nomads learn how to read and write.

The Rabaris of Kutch, Gujarat, are a community of some 6000 nomads who migrate because a year-round supply of fodder and water for their animals is not available locally. Most of them are illiterate, and hence, they face many problems on migration. They cannot decipher bus destination boards, ticket prices, letters from relatives or prices in local markets.

Yet they have a strong wish to be literate. As a highly independent people, they are uncomfortable with depending on unknown outsiders for information and help. This, in turn, makes them motivated learners.

However, the problem is not so much about awareness or raising and maintaining motivation, but more one of logistics… how can it be done if they are on the move constantly for almost nine months of the year.

Earlier experience with nomads had shown that self-help is not readily forthcoming.

First Published: Mar 17, 2004 01:09 IST