Schools for Tribal Kids or for Hor­ror?

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

The death of nearly 900 chil­dren, be­tween 2010 and 2015, in state-run res­i­den­tial schools for tribal chil­dren is a mat­ter of deep sor­row and shame. Their par­ents sent th­ese chil­dren, be­long­ing to the most marginalised seg­ment of In­dian so­ci­ety, to th­ese schools in the hope that ed­u­ca­tion would lib­er­ate them from poverty and want. In­stead, lack of ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties — drink­ing wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, health­care, poor nu­tri­tion — and an ex­cess of ad­min­is­tra­tive cal­lous­ness killed that hope. Those re­spon­si­ble must be pun­ished. More to the point, in­sti­tu­tions must be put in place to pre­vent re­cur­rence of such tragedy.

Ac­count­abil­ity is clearly miss­ing. The res­i­den­tial schools in ques­tion, the Eklavya Model Res­i­den­tial Schools, pat­terned on the Navo­daya Vidyalayas cater­ing to chil­dren in class VI to XII, and ashram schools set up as part of a cen­trally spon­sored scheme un­der the tribal sub-plan, are un­der the min­istry of tribal af­fairs, un­like other state-run schools, which are over­seen by the min­istry of hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment and state ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments. The tribal af­fairs min­istry and its out­posts in the states are ill-equipped to run th­ese schools prop­erly. As a re­sult, tribal res­i­den­tial schools are mon­i­tored and held to ac­count far less ef­fec­tively than other state-run schools. Im­proved ad­min­is­tra­tive over­sight must be com­ple­mented with in­creased com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion through school com­mit­tees com­pris­ing par­ents, district of­fi­cials and school ad­min­is­tra­tors. Com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion in states like Na­ga­land has re­sulted in sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in teacher ab­sen­teeism. There are no easy an­swers to how and how fast tribal com­mu­ni­ties join the main­stream. Tak­ing their bright­est chil­dren out of their homes and away from their cul­ture, only to maim or kill them, is cer­tainly not one of them.

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