International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 2016


There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world living across 90 countries. As distinct peoples, indigenous peoples have developed their own knowledge systems, values, institutions, practices and economies, often based on sustainable management of natural resources. Likewise, indigenous peoples have their own cultural methods of transmitting knowledge. To protect the rights of these people, August 9 is commemorated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year, the day’s theme is ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education’.
Disparities persist between indigenous and non-indigenous populations in terms of education access, retention and achievement. The gap is even wider for indigenous women and girls.
There are over 500 tribes spread over different States and Union Territories of India, the largest number of tribal communities being in Odisha. Nine States, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal, together account for more than four-fifths of the total tribal population in India.
According to Census 2011, the population of Odisha is 4,19,47,358. The Scheduled Tribe (ST) population of the State is 81.45,081, constituting 22.1 per cent of the State’s total population and 9.7 per cent of the total tribal population of the country. Malkangiri district has the highest ST proportion (57.4 per cent) followed by Mayurbhanj (56.6 per cent), Rayagada (55.8 per cent) and Nabarangapur (55 per cent). Puri district has the lowest (0.3 per cent). Out of the 62 tribes of Odisha, Kondh is the most populous tribe followed by Gond. The State’s other major tribals include Santal, Kolha, Munda, Saora and Shabar. These groups have limited access to basic services like education, healthcare and others.
The literacy rate in India as per Census 2011 is 73 per cent, but for STs it is 59 per cent. Literacy rate in Odisha has seen upward trend and is 73.45 per cent as per the census. But for STs, it is 52.2 per cent. The low literacy rate for the ST community is because of the fact that enrolment ratio decreases drastically after elementary education. The other major factor is the high numbers of dropouts. Language is an important constraint of tribal children which prevents them their access to education. The physical location of villages is another major problem. Tribal habitations remain segregated from each other by some physical barriers like rivers and forests. The physical barriers are a hindrance for tribal children of a village to attend school in other village. The tribes depend on forests for eight months and on agriculture for four months. The children of eight to 10 age groups help their parents in collection of forest products. So, parents do not allow them to attend schools. Tribal parents’ illiteracy does not permit them to understand the long-term values of education.
The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of all such instruments, the right to education has not been fully realised for most indigenous peoples. Government attempted vigorously to educate all children within the age group of 6 to 14 years as per provisions laid down in Articles 45 and 46 of the Indian Constitution. So, time to time committees, commissions and working groups were set up to suggest ways to attain the goal.
In Odisha, Village Education Committees (VECs) have been constituted to preserve and monitor the functioning of the schools. For promoting education of the backward population (SC and ST) in the State, the Government has established special schools for them like Sevashramas and Kanyashramas.
Despite all efforts for overall development of the scheduled tribes, they are still far behind in almost all the standard parameters of development. They are not able to participate in the process of development as they are not aware of most of the progrmmes and policies made for their upliftment. This is mainly due to the high incidence of illiteracy and very low level of education among the tribals.
An extensive literacy campaign may be undertaken on a priority basis to literate the tribals. The attitude of the tribal parents toward education should be improved through proper counselling and guidance. Besides, there is an urgent need for various Government interventions, planners and policymakers to address this problem and allocate more funds in the Central and State Budgets for tribal education. Easy access and more opportunities should be provided to tribal children to create awareness about their right to education and other fundamental rights.