Education is a key component to the growth of any nation and as such should be distributed equally to all. India however, continues to struggle with education in its tribal areas. Despite government efforts to promote education, literacy rates among Scheduled Tribes continue to fall far below the national average. According to a 2011 census, the national literacy rate in India was 73 percent compared to 59 percent in Scheduled Tribes. The Times of India however, stated that “this gap has closed significantly in the last decade”, an example being the women of Tripura, who showed a significant rise from just 44.6 to 71.6 percent literacy rate.

Bhil tribe girls in Jhabua district

Bhil tribe girls in Jhabua district

Education is a key component to the growth of any nation and as such should be distributed equally to all.

Tribal education projects have been implemented throughout India, primarily involving the opening of schools. But projects such as the Paryavaran Mitra Programme aim to provide more than improved literacy rates. There is an old adage that sums up the schooling programme the project seeks to provide, it says, “Don’t teach students what to think instead teach them how to think.”

Projects such as the Paryavaran Mitra Programme aim to provide more than improved literacy rates.

The Paryavaran Mitra Programme, set up by Madhya Pradesh Vigyan Sabha in over 180 schools throughout India, aims to create a network of young leaders who have the “awareness, knowledge, commitment, and potential to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability in their own spheres of influence.” The Bharia Tribal children are some of those who the project has reached out to. “We have a library in our school. We can register our names and borrow story and poetry books,” explained Manglu Bharti, one of the children helped by the project.

Rabha tribe girls dancing in their traditional costumes in a forest village in West Bengal

Rabha tribe girls dancing in their traditional costumes in a forest village in West Bengal

Everybody working together for a common purpose: to make sure that children have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive in safety.

The initiative is not only about the students, but also the teachers, parents and communities, the point being that it takes everyone to provide what these tribal children need. Not only families, school staff, police, government - but everybody working together for a common purpose: to make sure that children have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive in safety.

Young Baiga tribe women

Young Baiga tribe women

One example of the success of this initiative is the innovation and creativity displayed in the wall art - termed ‘Guiyan’ – created by the students of Patalkot, Gaildubba, a school managed by the Tribal Welfare. From issues of cleanliness and water conservation to maternity welfare, these kids have covered an entire realm of social subjects that they reflect in their inspiring and thought provoking artwork. The project has equipped them with educational, philosophical and social canon, seeking to broaden their viewpoints by teaching varied and diverse perspectives.

To find out more contact Anil Gulati, Communication Specialist at UNICEF India: aqulati@unicef.org

Words: Taruka Srivastava

Images source: Reuters