Addressing School Dropout in Tribal Dominated Aspirational District of Odisha
Naturally rich but economically poor, Malkangiri in Odisha, a neighbour of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, has been majorly impacted by left-wing extremism that has acted as a major roadblock for development in the area. The hilly terrain and dense forests have also proven to be a safe haven for the Naxalites. In last few years, over 150 people, including 80 policemen, have been killed in gunfire and landmine blasts. Despite this, various interventions made by the district administration have enabled Malkangiri to grow and flourish.
A tribal district, Malkangiri is home to around seven different tribes, each with a different language and customs. Among these, the Bonda and Didayi are two primitive tribal communities found in the district.
Malkangiri has been plagued by abysmally low literacy. To address the problem, the district administration has successfully initiated and implemented the Multi-Lingual Education programme. Started in 2007, this programme is designed to cover primary education of children from classes I–V. According to the language-transition plan of this programme, learning is first initiated in the child’s mother tongue, then a second language, Odia, is introduced, followed by a third, English.
To stimulate interest and make learning more relatable to the children, the programme uses tribal festivals, customs and traditions as modes of communication. As many as 113 schools spread across six blocks of district and 6035 students have benefited from this programme. By building cohesion with the tribal culture, the programme proved to significantly reduce school dropouts and improve learning levels. It can also be seen as a major breakthrough for addressing the educational needs of tribal children by bridging the gap between home language and school language.
In fact, the district administration is continually devising different methods to integrate tribal culture and customs into the mainstream to further development in the district. The journey has just started and there is a long way to go.
Aakanksha Sharma is a Young Professional at NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.