Education for Children of Tribal Communities in Odisha

Anil Pradhan

Introduction Field Experience
Educational Institutions for tribals What needs to be done?
Instruction in Tribal Languages  


1. Introduction

Around one fourth (23%) of the total population of Odisha belongs to Scheduled Tribe /tribal communities as against around 8% of the total population of India. History says India was the land of tribals. The tribal languages and culture have influenced significantly the culture Odisha in particular and Indian culture in general. But the governments have done little for the improvement of the tribal communities both in Odisha and India. Most of the development interventions are being designed at higher level and implemented at the field level. Various committees (Renuka Roy in 1959 and Verrier Elwin in1960) and commissions (Education Commission- 1965-66, Review POA in 1992) set up after independence has given valuable recommendations for the development of education amongst tribals as well as their all round development. But our planners never bother to take into consideration these valuable recommendations while planning for the development of tribals. As a result there is turmoil in tribal areas of Odisha and of other states. Government spends huge amount of money for combating extremism, but it is reluctant to spend money for development of education in the state, which can be an enduring instrument for reducing extremism in the state.

2. Educational Institutions for tribals

Out of 314 blocks, 118 blocks are under tribal sub- plan. There are 11,497 schools (both primary and upper Primary) under the Department of School and Mass Education catering to the children of the tribal communities. Besides, the Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development also runs schools for children of tribal communities. The following are the details of the schools under this department:



Ekalavya Model schools


Higher Secondary Schools


( Science and Commerce)


High Schools


Girls High Schools


Ashram Schools


Residential Sevashram






There are two secondary training schools and one Batchler in Education(BEd) College too under the control of this department. There is no basic difference between schools run by the Department of Schools and Mass Education and the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Department except residential facilities. The following table provides the details of the residential facilities to the tribal students.

Primary Schools Hostels (in ITDA Blocks)


Primary Schools Hostels (for ST boys and Girls)


ST girls hostels


Hostels for SC boys and girls55 under construction)


Special Adivasi Hostels




(Source: Annual Report of ST and SC development Department 2009-2010)

The students of such schools except of Ekalavya Schools, level do pursue the same curriculum, syllabus and follow the same textbooks of Odisha Board of Secondary Education as the students in the schools under the Department of School and Mass Education; in Ekalavya schools the CBSE (Central Board For Secondary Education) course is in vogue. No effort is found to have been made in such schools to build the identity of the children based on their language and culture though some poorly managed incentives are given to the teachers of these schools for learning tribal languages.

3. Instruction in Tribal Languages

Tribals have their own languages and culture, which are different from the state language Odia. It is desirable that their children should be taught in their language. Out of 11,497 schools under the Department of School and Mass Education, in 545 schools only the Government of Odisha, at present, is implementing Multi Lingual Education(MLE) programme in ten tribal languages replacing monolingual situation. The Government of Odisha is also planning to extend it to another 500 schools in another 10 tribal languages. An National Council Educational Research and Training(NCERT) conducted evaluation of MLE programme in Odisha reveals that learning level of the children of tribal communities is much better in comparison to the ones in general schools and this is despite many limitations faced by MLE schools. This finding hopefully would encourage the Government of Odisha to extend MLE programme to all schools run in tribal areas as the present situation is highly inadequate considering the size of the tribal population in the state.

3.1. Impediments to the implementation of MLE programme

The scenario in Multi Lingual Education(MLE) schools is quite disturbing. There is only one teacher in each MLE School and one classroom earmarked as MLE classroom. . But MLE materials are prepared for students up to class –III in each adopted language. Other teachers in the MLE schools are sadly ignorant of the concept of MLE and are apathetic towards MLE programme. If the teacher assigned to MLE goes on leave then during his period of absence there is no body to handle children of the lower classes. Therefore when Government contemplates to extend MLE programme to more number of schools, for its effective implementation more number of teachers from tribal communities need to be appointed. It is true that all the MLE teachers, at present, are from tribal communities.

3.2. Controversy on the appointment of teachers

It is felt that the teachers from tribal communities, from the neighbourhood of the schools, are crucial to check absenteeism of teachers and reduce the language and cultural barriers between the teachers and students. But unfortunately the Government does not have a policy to address this issue. Its earlier attempt to appoint teachers taking block as a unit was unsuccessful as it was challenged in the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha (207(II) ORL-577), which observed: Article 16(2) of the constitution provides that no discrimination can be made on the basis of residence. State governments are not empowered to make such exceptions. In view of this Government allowed anybody to apply for any place for the post of Siksha Sahayak, which led to the candidates from developed districts becoming teachers in tribal and underdeveloped districts. Even those who are appointed from within the district, they are also reluctant to stay near the school, though they are from distant places, sometimes fifty to sixty kilometers away. They prefer to come from their places of residence to the school and use motorbike to negotiate the distance. The salary being much less, and the cost of negotiating by bike, that too every day, becomes for them quite formidable and they skip coming every day and thus ensues irregularity of teachers in attending to their duties. It may be pointed out that appointment of teachers in tribal areas from local tribal communities, which is in the interest the educationally backward tribal communities, can be undertaken relying on the Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which though prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, castes, sex, or place of birth, in its Clause-4, however, allows the State to make special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of the citizens or for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes’ Further Article 46 of the Constitution provides that ‘the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and in particular of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation’.

4. Field Experience

Sikshasandhan, which is a Bhubaneswar based resource centre for education and is primarily engaged in innovating education for weaker sections of the Indian society, has been working with 45 government schools in 5 Gram Panchayats of Kaptipada block of Mayurbhanj district. It has undertaken massive awareness campaign in these areas by conducting Padayatra, village meetings in their languages, wall painting on the features of Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, street theatre, posters both in tribal and Odia language etc The objective is to persuade villagers to send their wards to the schools. Efforts have been made for proper capacity building of School Management Committee (SMC). It is also engaged in organising training programme for teachers teaching children in multi-lingual and multi-grade situations. Sikshasandhan has also prepared some picture cards, storybooks, books on riddles and village history, which are used by the teachers as Teaching Learning Materials (TLM) in the classrooms. Sikshasandhan has also appointed some teachers who work with government appointed teachers and they are all from tribal communities. The tribal teachers appointed by Sikshasandhan are largely engaged in the following activities:

  • Motivating parents and children for schooling

  • Identifying never enrolled and extremely irregular children

  • Taking special measures to bring these children to schools

  • Teaching children in mother tongue with the help of materials available from the local environment

  • Collection of stories, village histories, riddles, songs from the tribal communities and using them as Teaching Learning materials(TLM).

  • Capacity building of SMC members and helping them to hold SMC meetings regularly

  • Tracking the attendance of the children

In spite of all these efforts during last one and half year, Sikshasandhan is yet to ensure 100% attendance in the schools. It has been observed that due to the non-functioning of pre-school facilities in the Integrated Child Development Schemes(ICDS) , poverty, large family size and partly lack of awareness of the parents on education, 100% attendance of the children in the schools could not be ensured. Another reason for non-attendance is the tribal festival. In Sikshasandhan project area, it has been estimated that around 38 days in a year children do not come to school because of their local festivals. There are festivals, which continue for days together and children avoid coming to school even after the festivals are over. In those days of festivals, the schools virtually look closed. It has been observed that many students come to schools with their younger brothers and sisters. Confronted with such problems, it is felt that a possible solution may be found in appointing local volunteers who can be assigned the job of 1) mobilising the community to send the children to school 2) bringing children to school, 3) imparting pre-school education to the children during school hour. Further these volunteers can be engaged in providing special support to the tribal children for their academic enrichment at home.

5. What needs to be done?

  1. Government should appoint adequate number of regular teachers in the schools in tribal areas. It should immediately discontinue the practice of appointing contractual teachers. Government should frame recruitment and transfer policy of teachers on priority basis. In case of tribal area, government should make policy that it will appoint teachers only from tribal communities from the same area. In case of non-availability of qualified candidates for the same, government can consider reducing the minimum norms of qualification in case of tribal youths and provide special training to them. Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have special policy for recruitment of teachers in tribal area Government of Odisha can adopt similar policy.

  2. Government has to change its selection procedure for candidates for training colleges. Centralisation of selection purely based on marks to be immediately stopped. Decentralisation of selection of candidates for training colleges and on the basis of entrance test may be considered for the larger interest of the state. Special quota may be provided to SC, ST and minorities on the basis of the population composition of the area. If government follows centralisation selection process, time will come there will be shortage of trained candidates for teachers in tribal and underdeveloped areas.

  3. The course curriculum, syllabus and textbooks should be made contextual at local level. It has also been mentioned in the Syllabus for Primary,Secondary and Higher Secondary Classes, NCERT, 2005 where it is stated, ‘This syllabus has primarily been conceptualised as a broad framework for teaching languages. We do hope that different states, districts and in some cases, may be even some blocks, adopt and adapt this framework according to their local contexts, accommodating children with diverse abilities for their own area.’ For this Government can take the help of Cluster Resource Centre Coordinators(CRCC) and District Institute of Educational Training(DIETs). There should be separate cell for education of tribal children in Sstate Council of Educational Research Training(SCERT) and DIETs. The syllabus and course curriculum of DIET should be redesigned to have proper space for educating children of tribal communities.

  4. Development and printing of text books and syllabus should be decentralized and syllabus and teaching learning materials should be prepared keeping in view the socio-cultural and economic situations of tribals.

  5. Mother tongue based pre-school education is a must. Locally relevant pre-school materials should be developed.

  6. Adjustment of timing of Integrated Child Development Schemes(ICDS) should be such that the younger brothers and sisters of the children who come to the primary schools can be taken care of while these children can be engaged in learning undisturbed.

  7. All subjects should be taught in mother tongue at least up to 8th class. Children will learn Odia and English as second and third langauge. Purpose of learning is to acquiring knowledge not for acquiring languages. One can learn languages at later stage also and it will be easier for her.

  8. The academic calendar for schools in tribal areas should be modified to accommodate in its list of holidays the dates of local festivals and removing from the list the holidays, which are not related to their culture. That is, holidays of schools should necessarily be during festivals seasons of the tribals. That would give a more rational picture of school attendance besides enhancing their sense of dignity.

  9. Materials for pre-school education need to be developed in tribal languages. For this special efforts need to be taken to collects folktales, songs, riddles from the tribal communities.

  10. Special community mobilisation and community capacity building strategies needs to be developed in case of tribal areas. Capacity building and awareness generation activities should be done through experienced voluntary organisations in the field of education.

  11. Government of Odisha should strengthen village schools instead of opening of special/residential schools for tribal children. Whatever facilities children get at residential schools, if these facilities could be provided to the children studying in schools, the benefits for the tribal children will be much better.