Adivasi girls in Rajasthan ushering in new literacy landscape

Adivasi girls in Rajasthan ushering in new literacy landscape

Adivasi girls in Rajasthan ushering in new literacy landscape

Tribal girls in Rajasthan attending classes in a local school (Photo Sourced by S.R. Pareek)

Figures prove that girls in many of the state’s tribal-dominated districts outnumber boys at schools and are going on to make it big in areas such as the IAS.

Jodhpur: For years, the tribal regions of Rajasthan were believed to be plagued by illiteracy. But now, Adivasi girls are actively changing this perception. These girls, who once kept away from primary education, have whole-heartedly embraced higher education, with many claiming top positions in government bureaucracy.

With parents growing more aware of the importance of schooling, wards have gone on to seize every opportunity to make their families proud.

Take, for instance, the case of Mona Roth of Dungarpur. Recognising their daughter’s talents and desire to pursue higher education, her parents helped her move to another city. Roth went on to become the first Adivasi Indian Administrative Services (IAS) civil servant from her district.

Similarly, Avni Bamania also made her mark in the IAS. This Banswara resident didn’t allow three unsuccessful attempts to deter her from finally making it to the administrative services. She’s now the first female Adivasi IAS officer from the district. 

Empowered women are beginning to hold sway in several tribal-dominated districts of Rajasthan, such as Pratapgad, Sirohi, Udaipur, and Palli. Once backwards in matters of female literacy, these regions are now seeing girls enthusiastically pursue careers in engineering, medicine, education and government administration. As against a 50 per cent gap between male and female literacy in the past, the difference is now marginal. In fact, in several districts, the numbers lean in favour of girls.

Figures at a glance

In Pratapgad, girls outnumber boys in higher education. At the Rajakiya Mahavidyalay here, there are 1,862 boys and 2,297 girls on the roll call.

In Sirohi, the Adivasi-dominated Abu Road town had 17,068 girls studying in 223 schools in 2020-21; by 2021-22, the figure climbed to 18,170. In Dungarpur, among the 3,13,151 students enrolled in Class XII, girls (56,014) were only marginally outnumbered by boys (57,126), according to the state education department.

In Banswara, girls lag slightly behind in primary education. But they are well ahead of boys in higher education. While there are 15,781 boys as against 15,018 girls enrolled in schools here in Class X, there are 10,325 girls as against 10,148 boys in Class XI.

In the Bali sub-division of Palli district, there are only four boys as against eight girls in Class XII, in the local secondary school in Pipal village. There were 16 boys and 10 girls studying in Class X, and only 10 boys in Class XI.

Moreover, a keen desire to learn English among Adivasi girls is evident from the numbers at the English-medium section in Sewari; there are 10 Adivasi girls enrolled here as against 27 girls from the general category.

Official district-wise figures corroborate the findings, as well.

While the percentage rise in some districts may be more pronounced than others, the figures indicate a steady increase in Adivasi enrolments across all tribal-dominated districts of Rajasthan. 

The change—and how it was brought about

In 1967, the first school in a tribal area was set up in Banswara's Garhi Kasba. The lone Adivasi girl who secured admission at the time failed. But things are quite different now. There are 1,08,906 girls currently studying in 449 government schools in the district. In Ghotal block, girls outnumber boys in all 62 schools.

Where higher education is concerned, the progress is stark, to say the least.

In 2005-06, there were 30 Adivasi girls enrolled for every 100 boys in colleges. By 2020-21, the number spiked to 105 girls for every 100 boys. Even as boys drop out to seek employment, or give up their studies due to other reasons, girls continue with their classes and pursue higher education. In Rajasthan, of the 322 colleges, 60 are girls-only institutes.

Interestingly, there are many girls who have moved out of their villages and into towns and cities to pursue higher studies. Many of these girls, at one point of time, fell among those who never left their villages for any reason. These girls, one finds, are not just aiming to be independent, but are determined to enable their siblings to get a better education, too. 

In the Udaipur Adivasi hostel, there are more than 80 girls currently preparing for competitive exams to enter the administrative, medical and educational services. In Dhikli residential school in Udaipur district, there are nearly 350 girls from villages pursuing higher education.

(Left) Mona Rot, IAS - “It is basically a question of opportunity. Since tribal girls are now being given the opportunity to shine, they are emerging bright. In the past, parents would not even allow their daughters to move from one village to another; now, girls are shifting to cities to prepare for competitive exams. My initial schooling was at Banswara, Dungarpur. I prepared for IIT in Udaipur and cleared the exams without any coaching. Following my stint at IIT-Kanpur, I moved to Delhi to prepare for the civil service exams and got selected for the IAS. I am now posted in Karnataka. The situation will improve further in the coming years.” ;
(Right) Avni Bamania, IAS - “Until Class VIII, I studied in a private school in Banswara district. After that, my family sent me to Udaipur to pursue my studies, where I completed my Class XII. I completed by MA and M.Phil from Delhi. I was unsuccessful in my IAS prelims thrice, but remained stubbornly determined to crack the exams and was ultimately successful. You may fail in life on many occasions, but if you keep trying, you are bound to succeed.”

The pandemic and its effects

As with much else, the Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse effect on the progress registered through the years. Scores of families fled the onslaught of the disease, resulting in several girls abandoning their studies midway. It also saw many absenting themselves from school, in spite of continuing to be enrolled.

For instance, at the Rajakiya Uncch Prathamik Vidyalay in Motira, Banswara, only 50 students of the 160 enrolled have been attending their classes since the pandemic broke out. Similarly, only 19 of the 35 enrolled students were attending school at the Rajakiya Prathamik Vidyalay in Surpur Dhani. In Sujaji ka Gada, there were 20 students enrolled at the local school opened to serve the 40-household settlement; this had to be closed down due to lack of students.

In this respect, Banswara-based NGO Vaagdhara has been working tirelessly through their child helpline in tribal hamlets to bring back school children. With their community radio station, Vaagad Radio 90.8 FM, Vaagdhara reached out to parents and children during the pandemic. The organisation also distributed books through teachers, field workers and facilitators to keep students in touch with what they had learnt in the past. 

Recalling how the pandemic affected girls' education during the Covid-19 crisis, Vaagdhara Secretary Jayesh Joshi told 101Reporters: “We learnt from a girl in Kushalgarh that she was keen to return to school, but her parents were unwilling to let her resume studies. She was, instead, being sent to work on a construction site through a contractor. With the help of the police and the child helpline, we warned the contractor against employing child labour. Talking to her parents, we learnt that they were plagued by economic hardship in the pandemic period. Hence, we arranged for her uniform and stationery and got her readmitted to Class VIII in the local school.”

Joshi and his team also took the pain to apprise parents and guardians of the importance of education, besides informing them of the various schemes and financial assistance being extended by the state and central governments, particularly the following:

  • Distribution of bicycles to outstanding girls studying in high schools and higher secondary schools, to enable them to travel easily and prevent them from dropping out due to the distant location of schools

  • Free scooters to higher secondary toppers pursuing degree courses in colleges

  • Financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh to three Class X girls topping from each district of the state

  • Financial assistance worth Rs 50,000 to every girl from birth to Class XII under the Rajyashree Scheme

  • Total sponsorship by the state government of schoolgirls who intend to pursue higher education abroad. For this, the government will select three toppers from every district

  • Free food, uniforms and accommodation in Kasturba Gandhi residential schools for all female students

  • Financial assistance under the Gargi Award Scheme to government school students who secure 75 per cent and above marks

  • Transport vouchers to those who travel a distance of 5 km and above to their schools

The NGO's awareness drives had the desired effect and brought many girls back to school, particularly in Kupada, Banswara, Kushalgad, Anandpuri and Ghatol.

“Encouragement from the government has gone hand in hand with a change in parental attitudes. Girls have also shown a clear desire to educate themselves. Increased enrolment in schools has been accompanied by good results, too. While higher education has received a shot in the arm with the distribution of scooters and free sponsorships, school education has also received a lot of benefits from the government. Adivasi girls also receive free coaching. Hostel accommodation is also provided in Udaipur and many other cities. All this added up to Adivasi girls doing very well for themselves in education over the last few years,” said Sham-e Pheroza Batun Anjum, Additional District Education Officer (Secondary), Banswara, Rajasthan.

Edited by Rina Mukherji


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