Field notes from east India

I drafted the field notes presented here as part of a larger study conducted by NIAS, Bangalore, to bring out a perspective paper on issues pertaining to the education of the tribal peoples of India. In March 2012, NIAS submitted a final report of its study to UNICEF. The report was titled ‘The Education Question: From the Perspective of Adivasis: Conditions, Policies and Structures.’

By providing the field notes for reference through this forum , I hope to make amends for invisibilising the voices of the actors in the report, in the making of which I was part.

Notes on east zone consultation meet held from January 23-26, 2011

Between January 23 and 26, 2011 the National Institute of Advanced Studies (Bangalore), in association with Shikshasandhan (Orissa), held a consultation meet at Orissa.  On 23rd and 24th, a field visit was undertaken.  Due to bad roads and formidable commuting distances, we could visit only two schools in Kandhamal district, namely the government run Sevasram in Salaguda with classes from fourth to seventh [??] and DPEP’s New Primary School, Phulbani [Bakepanga Phiringya??].


 At the government Sevasram school, Salaguda

When we reached the school, the children were still getting ready.  An ambience of ease and comfort was evident as boys and girls had either just finished their bath and were dressing up or were washing their plates after breakfast.  The school has 135 students on the rolls, in seven classes.  The school bell was rung at 10.00 am and the children assembled in neat rows for prayer in the front compound [a narrow space between the room, where we were seated on mats on the floor, and the compound wall].  Prayers were recited/ sung in Oriya [??] for about 15 minutes and then the classes dispersed in an orderly manner, though many students came back to peep at us through the windows of the room where we were sitting.

The discussion was originally with three tribal youth, who had dropped out of school to look after their land as they were cultivators.  They were soon joined by Vishnu Dighar [??] the President of the Village Education Committe, a para teacher who had been a student at the school, and a few others.  The discussions were in Oriya, and Ashish [??] Das of Shikshasandhan acted as the mediator, translating our questions from Hindi or English to Oriya and their answers, from Oriya, to Hindi or English.  Inputs from the discussion with the VEC President:

  • He studied in this school and his children now study here
  • Teachers are better now than in his time, but they are not sufficient in number.  In the past due to the fewer students in school, the teachers were enough, but not now [as the student population has increased manifold].
  • To address the problem of teacher shortage, para teachers are employed; but they are not very motivated to teach as they are paid only Rs.500/-
  • Good students from the 7th standard are also asked to take classes for the fourth standard [??]
  • There is one tribal teacher.
  • One teacher stays in the hostel and the rest [How many??] stay in the village.
  • The headmaster, who is from Phulbani, is not regular in attendance.  Though DPC, MLA and sub-collector have been informed about HM in writing and his replacement has been asked for, no steps have been taken.
  • BRC and CRC officers regularly visit the school.  VEC also meets regularly.  VEC has given representation to BRC, CRC and also BDO regarding number of teachers, but to no avail.
  • Two girls who studied in the school have gone out of the village, as teachers.
  • Many students drop out of school as their parents migrate to Tamil Nadu as daily labour (??)
  • The VEC has no idea about the various government schemes available for tribal students’ education.  But the VEC has been active, generally.  It has got a boundary wall constructed for the school and arranged to have sanitation in place.  There is also a good vegetable garden on the school premises and two wells to ensure water supply.
  • The VEC president said that they did not face any difficulty with respect to caste certificate.  After an application is made, the tahsildar issues the certificate in 15 or 20 days.
  • Students may call a toll free helpline [18003456722].  Our attempts to access this number, however, did not bear fruit.  However, we used mobile phones and did face connectivity/ network related problems because of the remoteness of the location.

The following is a detailed district chart including miscellaneous expenditure required for each boarder student.  It was painted on a school wall, outside one of the classrooms:

Sl. No. Details of materials Quantity per time No. of times Price per kg Amount per day
1 Rice 250g 2 Rs.2.00 Re. 1.00
2 Dal 40g 2 Rs.46.00 Rs.3.68
3 Vegetables 133g 2 Rs.10 Rs.2.66
4 Oil 15g Rs.66 Re.0.99
5 Salt & Fuel Rs.25.00 per month
6 Fish/ Mutton/ Egg

Weekly once

Rs.30.00 per month
7 Breakfast/ tiffin Rs.2.00
Total dietary expenses per month = Rs.365.00 per student

Miscellaneous Expenses

Sl. No. Details Amount / month
Kerosene/ electricity @ Re.0.32




3 Garments (per season for 12 pairs of dresses)


4 Total dietary and miscellaneous expenses


5. Pocket money for boys


6. Total for boys


Pocket money for girls


Total for girls


At the DPEP New Primary School, Bakepanga-Phiringya

 The school had four classes in two classrooms.  A single teacher was managing both the classes.  He belongs to a socially disadvantaged community, but is not a tribal person.  He has been teaching since 2007.  Has completed D.Ed. and an in-service training of one year.  The school is eight years old.  He is from the village community and finds the youth and parents quite enthusiastic about education.  Students generally complete their tenth standard (??) in his village community, whether they belong to tribal communities or otherwise.

The school has a huge compound and while we are there, the lunch bell is rung.  Students go out of the school gate, presumably to attend to the call of nature, though there are two toilets on the premises.  They come back, wash by using a hand pump which is the source of water, and get ready their plates to eat.


  1. Deputy Director, SC-ST Department, Odisha
  • Presented some basic facts: ST population = 23% of state population; No. of tribes = 62 (13 endogenous tribes); Literacy rate of tribals = 38%.
  • Identified three problems: gap between mother tongue and school language; gap between teachers and parents; communication gap between local people, culture and school education.
  • Orissa has constituted a Tribal Advisory Committee under chairmanship of Chief Minister in 2006.  It has recommended that multilingual education (MLE) will come into force in 8 languages in 10 districts.
  • Saori, Kui, Santali, Oraon and Munda first given attention.
  • There are now 544 schools.  Plan to upscale to 1000 schools.
  • 3421 hamlets are 100% monolingual; 2000 + are 90% monolingual. [This accounts for the MLE’s success in Orissa??]
  • Class 1 = 100% in mother tongue (tribal language); class 2 = Oral in Oriya; Class 3 = Reading and Writing of English (as third language] and Oriya books, based on culture and tradition of tribal groups, introduced.
  • Cognitive Academic Proficiency Scheme adopted: 30 themes are introduced and entire academic year is divided into 30 weeks; tribal children are assessed in 3 terms of 10 weeks each and assessment is done after every 7 weeks; in class 3, themes reduced to 15 and in class 4, to 10; Teacher training modules for classes 1 to 4 also based on themes.
  • Community, school, district project officer, district resource groups, SCERT, DIET are all involved in preparing teaching learning materials and MLE materials.
  • There are monthly resource meetings and technical support is provided.
  • There are 30 tribal coding networks in 30 districts (???)
  • Schools are selected based on: 100 per cent ST children in primary/ upper primary are monolingual; community members must be interested in imparting mother tongue language education (for eg., in Mayurbanj Jaati Mahasabha, people represented that they wanted their children to be taught in Munda language); education should go beyond the school and involve the community in tribal areas; called Srujan (social activities), these include games, story telling festival, science exhibition etc; purpose is to attract children to school and increase their enjoyment and also involve community.
  • Teachers in these schools must know the tribe’s language
  • Monitoring and supervision planned with UNICEF help
  • NCERT has taken up a study of MLE in Orissa and results are expected soon.
  1. Programme Manager, ULHAS, Smruti R. Jena
  • Presented national and state related figures pertaining to tribals: National: 623 tribal communities; 573 notified communities; 218 languages; ~500 communities classified as bilingual.

–        Odisha: (2004 figures): Literacy 20 per cent less than overall state literacy; female literacy: 27 per cent less than overall; tribal children drop out: 20% of dropouts; >40 per cent out of school children are tribal.

  • Gap in tribal literacy and female literacy increasing despite schemes to address the problem.
  • Data pertaining to monolingual schools:

–        100% monolingual – 3742 schools

–        90-99% monolingual – 2500

–        80-89% monolingual – 2397

–        70-79% monolingual – 1939

–        60-69 % monolingual – 2109

–        50 – 59% monolingual – 2102

  • Most out of school children are from 11 districts
  • 11,617 schools having more than 20 students of linguistic minority.
  • “Education Complex” [???] is a new initiative of the state government in lower literacy areas.
  • Some solutions:

–        Pre-school education facilities to be examined (41,000 available, but 10,000 are only for health and nutrition; no teaching is done here.

–        Books are there for anganwadi level, published by OPEPA (Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority) but teachers not trained to use them.

–        Mr. Mohapatra intervened to say that Anganwadi teachers are themselves “illiterate” and not sufficiently educated.

  1. CARE Education Project, Diganta Mohanty and Binay Nath
  • Working for one year – pilot in 50 Mayurbhanj schools.
  • Six tribal communities are now studying in CARE schools.
  • Morning assembly is used to create familiarity with Oriya language.
  • Classes one to three have no textbooks.
  • Eighty children had come into CARE schools in first year.  Seventy have been mainstreamed.
  • Lodha tribe’s children face social exclusion and challenge is to overcome this.  In the classroom, they are put into a corner.  All the Lodha children in one school were taken back by the community after one child was reported to have been tortured.
  • Makadiya, a nomadic tribe, whose population is on the decline. Recently the state celebrated the completion of the tenth standard by the first person from this community.  The question is: should the progress of just one child from the community be a cause for pride or shame for the country?
  • Study undertaken on MLE.  Main issues: capacity building and classroom situation.  Report in process.
  1. CYSD (Centre for Youth and Social Development)
  • Operating in four districts, six blocks, in intensive mode and in twelve districts in extensive mode. [??]
  • Pre schools (Sishu Vihar) and training and supplementary programme (Education Watch Group).
  • Sishu Vihar, in areas without anganwadi; running in association with the department, in two districts.
  • Since MLE under SSA is only for monolingual schools as of now, CYSD concerns itself with multilingual schools.
  • Children up to eighteen years are helped; child peer groups are formed.
  • Community is sensitized to various programmes of the government.
  • ‘Education Watch,’ a journal that reports on various gaps in education, is published periodically.
  1. Dhatri Resource Centre, K. Bhanumathi, Director
  • Awareness about and demand for education has increased, but government has been falling short on providing the facilities: issues are access, infrastructure, pedagogic facilities.
  • SSA’s claims are not borne out.
  • Government says it is not viable to set up a school if the number of children is less than twenty in the community to be served.  How can there be greater density of population in remote areas in order to demand a school?
  • Dropout: more than 80% in Andhra Pradesh.  Is this because there are not enough ashramshals?
  • Enrolment cannot be equated with regular attendance.
  • Difficult to get tribal-related information at block level.  Current data on inter-tribal variances are also not available.
  • Schools exist only on paper; teacher absenteeism and hence non-functional schools, rampant.
  • Alternative schools with SSA help was meant to be a stop gap, but these continue?  Review required to see if this is because it is a cheaper option for the government.
  • Higher pay scales have not resulted in preventing teacher absenteeism or in increasing teacher motivation.
  • Hiring temporary teachers on high salaries has also not worked.
  • No dearth of schemes from centre, but allocations are not made at the state level.
  1. DIET, Baripada, P.C.Brahma, Teacher educator (Mayurbhanj district)
  • Adivasis are the ‘jungle jewels.’
  • Mayurbanj has 26 blocks; DIET has a hostel and school for 100 tribal girls.
  • Data not reliable: for instance, 16,491 dropouts says official data, but in reality, it is more than 70,000.
  • Parents’ attitude and lack of interest a major hurdle; parents must be sensitized towards education.
  • Congenial atmosphere not available in teaching-learning process.
  • Lack of focus on multiculturalism and school atmosphere major difficulties.
  • NGO-government partnership has brought positive change in Mayurbanj.
  • Government programmes: 20 schools for Munda, 100 schools for Santal, 10 schools for Ho.  Santal have their own script: Ol Chiki; other tribes use Oriya script.
  • In KGBV (Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya) 70% tribal girls are to be admitted as per law; but this is followed in only one percent of the schools.
  • Some government schemes: Educational complex for Primitive Tribal Groups (50 Lodha and 50 Kharia); a Kanyashram in every block; residential education complex for tribal children (Prativa) started by Collector in Mayurbhanj [??]
  1. People’s Rural Education Movement (PREM), Sushant Nayak
  • Working for three decades in tribal education
  • Pre-school teaching syllabus relevant to local life, drawing on local culture and employing local teacher
  • Fear of school environment and physical punishment major reasons for drop outs and absenteeism.
  • Awareness to be created among parents, community as well as teachers.
  • PREM’s schools have children cabinets or committees; school-related issues are dealt with by these committees or cabinets.
  • Children’s blackboard for children to pass on messages to teachers and other students has been introduced and is used by children regularly.
  • Children are also made part of the decision-making process by holding children’s workshops and other events involving them.
  • Children are also encouraged to write to the authorities and their memos, notes and write-ups are reached to the authorities concerned for action.
  • Scattered settlements in Kandhamal and Gajapathy; so access becomes a problem.  There are 47 residential hostels in the areas; children are admitted to these hostels and sent to nearby good schools.
  • Reservation in schools is not being used by the tribal communities.  PREM intervened to help 300 children use the facilities.
  • Vocational training depending on scope for employment: computer software, hardware, mobile repair, etc. is provided and the beneficiaries, mostly migrating girls, are placed in good companies.
  • Corruption – “polluted environment” – systemic; PREM created awareness on need to question and involve community in school management through youth and children’s clubs, self help groups, etc.  Concerned DRC, BRC, DEO and other department authorities participate in the interface.  PREM and the authorities note down the community’s observations and carry forward.
  1. Shikshasandhan. Achyuta Das, Director, Agragamee.

We come back again and again to the core issues.

Catastrophic changes and tragedies brought in due to changes – globalization and development.

  • What are the aims of education? Joining the mainstream?  Confronting or reconstructing the society?  Or meeting livelihood needs and aspirations?

Money spent is comparable to amount spent on best schools in the world.  The glaring failures are due to:

–        TLM: who is producing them?  SCERT, NCERT, NGOs.  What is the participation of learners? Is it relevant, appropriate?  What is the tone and tenor of the text?

–        Governance system: the district welfare officer or the tribal welfare department – who is in charge?

–        School infrastructure: should every school be a Navodaya?  A Doon School?  What is the model?

–        Is there a tribal education policy?  What is it?

–        Biju Patnaik’s vision was: a complex from class 1 to PhD for tribal students; but innovation is compromised when funding agency/ government asks: how many will be mainstreamed?

–        Why is everyone concerned with education not coming to a common platform?

–        To give a good picture for HDI and other indices, the Orissa government declared that it has a school  in every village and hamlet and that all schools are working.  So, there has been no funding for new innovations, etc.

–        How to mobilize the community and motivate them?  The one who gets an education leaves the community and doesn’t come back.  Those who get government jobs marry outside their community.  “When you’re eating rice and wheat why should we eat ragi?” they ask.  So, who will provide the leadership, be the change agents?

–        Should there be an alternate system owned and run by the people?

–        Tribal children are creative and perceptive.  For instance, they know about village power structures as well as about tradition [and can negotiate between them skillfully].  How do we capitalize that spark?

–        Who should be a teacher?  A Bed or a village youth?

–        There should be attempts to formalize non-formal schools.  Knowledge should give sense of freedom and values [not only well-paying jobs].


Structures and operations

Tribal Welfare Department runs many schools, all of them generally on similar lines.  Teachers are given training, according to the rules.  But teacher training memos never reach the tribal schools.

In September 2010, the SC/ ST department, the Education department and seven such departments came together and agreed to work together for the welfare of the tribal people.

At present there are many departments at many levels working on different aspects without coordination among the various departments: ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) comes under the Tribal Department; Orissa Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) anchors the SSA programme and is in charge of the tribal schools at the state level; the DPEP is in charge of the programme at the district level.

Recently the chief minister called for a more integrated effort and also introduced new posts and new nomenclature.  Eg. A cluster resource coordinator for every eight or nine clusters.

The Jati Mahasabha, which has thus far only discussed problems of marriage, forest rights, etc., in order to resolve them, should also be encouraged to discuss and resolve education related issues.

Impact of displacement

Problem of migrating children especially in western part of Orissa.  OPEPA and an organization called Aided Action have done micro studies in Bolangir and other parts of western Orissa.  December to June, the children are away from school.  Some organizations are providing education at the migration site so that there is some continuity to the children’s education.  There is also a government programme to provide for residential care centres at the home locations of the migrating families so that the children can stay there and continue going to school till their families return.

Police, and Maoist bombing are major reasons for displacement of school children from their homes and schools.

In one of the disturbed districts, Malkan [the same district from where the Maoists recently abducted the Collector], teachers have come together to organize their own training

Since 2002, IGNOU-sponsored programmes have also been organized in these areas.

Schemes/ programmes

ST students get certified teachers’ course.  They also have low-cose hostels for pursuing professional education.  General schools that have more tribal students also have a hostel especially for the tribal students. Midday meals are ubiquitous.  So is their subversion. One of the students is reported to have said, “Our Kalicharan Sir takes all the eggs home and sells them in his shop!”

Teachers/ Teaching

There are three types of teachers: regular, Shikya Sahayak and Gana Shikya.  After completion of six years, Gana Shikya will be regularized.

Contractual teachers used to be appointed under the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS).  But now additional teachers (under a GO in 2011) have to be appointed as per the order.  Qualifications are: plus two, certificate in teacher training or graduate.  However, under MLE programme, teachers have been taken from the community even when they are 10th standard pass.

Educationally backward blocks have been identified and must have a KGBV compulsorily with at least 70% tribal girls.  A hundred students study in the attached government school and stay in the hostel.  These [??] hu dred students are basically drop outs who are taken directly into sixth standard.

Commitment cannot come through training [A comment by one of the participants – former teacher/ professor??].

A uniform monitoring and supervision system is in place.  Called Sameekhya, the system monitors at different levels and consolidates its findings from bottom up.  The system also includes a recently introduced component for surprise visits.

Former professor [??]’s comments: There is genetic deficit, environmental deficit and institutional deficit.  Good officers are “scavengers”; they have to clean up the system first before introducing reforms.

Low proficiency starts with pre-primary school.  Hardly any primer in Oriya language; textbook writers make it difficult first, then make it easy [in the sense of over-simplified].

Education system is based on assumption that there are classes.  Reality: the classes are multi-level skillwise and little real teaching-learning can take place.  How to reduce this kind of disparity?  What do remedial classes mean?  We are not plugging the right hole.

Interference in the name of “help” and passing the buck have become characteristics of government schemes and functionaries.

Caste certificate

In suburbs, people have difficulty in collecting certificates [presumably as they have to travel long distances to access the department/ officer concerned].

Vocational training

Jana Shikshya Santhan: initiative of the department of adult education, HRD ministry.  Various vocational and job-oriented training provided.

Under Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana also many tribals are getting trained.

KGBV has a “hal-mal-lal [high activity learning, medium activity learning, low activity learning] system to identify various candidates for various courses such as tailoring, candle making, cooking, etc.

NGOs like PREM identify gaps and give technical training to teachers and also facilitate interaction with the community and providing courses in keeping with the anticipated demand for trained workers.


From Giriwda, Madhubani district.  Has been with Shikshasandhan since two years.  Completed plus two.  Studied in village Sevashram up to standard five.  Then classes 6 and 7 in an Ashramshala 5km from village.  Beaten there by a non-tribal in one of the earlier classes.  Completed high school from New High School (not recognized).  Plus two from private college.  Dropped out due to financial difficulties after father’s demise [apparently has not completed plus two].  Traditional occupation: cultivation.  Three brothers and three sisters.  One polio-affected brother has studied up to fourth.  Dropped out due to harassment [??] but continues to keep in touch with books and is very interested in reading.  Another brother dropped out at eighth and is taking care of the family’s land.  One younger sister is studying class ten.  Two sisters married.

Finds attitude changed [for the better] towards tribal students since his school days.  Agragamee and Shikshasandhan helped him overcome his inferiority. He would have preferred to study in Ho through school.  Languages known: Ho, Santhali, Bathodi, Mahanto.

                               By providing the field notes for reference through this forum , I hope to make amends for invisibilising the voices of the actors in the report, in the making of which I was part.

 For more notes from the field, click on links below:

South India

West India

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