How Odisha’s Malkangiri is improving tribal literacy rates

Aakanksha Sharma | Updated on January 22, 2020

As many as 6,035 students and 113 schools, spread have benefited from the efforts (File photo)   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A multi-lingual education programme and the inclusion of tribal culture in schooling are stimulating interest in learning and reducing droput rates

Naturally rich but economically poor, Odisha’s Malkangiri, a neighbour of the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, has been significantly 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 the last few years, over 150 people, including 80 policemen, have been killed in gunfire and landmine blasts.

Despite all 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 the Didayi are the two primitive tribal communities found in the district.

Multi-language programme

Malkangiri has been plagued by an abysmally low literacy rate. 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 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 6,035 students and 113 schools, spread across six blocks of the district, have benefited from this programme. By building cohesion with the tribal culture, the programme has proved to have 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.

The writer is a young professional at NITI Aayog. Views are personal

Published on January 22, 2020

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