Though the development of the tribes is taking place in India, its pace has left much to be desired
Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement on setting up 750 Eklavya Model Residential Schools ( EMRSs) in tribal areas is a positive step towards providing access to education to tribal and distant areas of the country. The Budget also raised the allocation for EMRS to Rs 38 crore and Rs 40 crore for hilly areas.
It is a known fact that education is the key to tribal development. Education is not only promoting the integration of the communities with the mainstream of the nation but also facilitates protection from all kinds of exploitation and helps in the adoption of the changing lifestyles.
Residential school learning experience
Established under the Tribal Affairs Ministry, EMRS is a Central Government scheme since 1998-99 for setting up model residential schools from Class VI to XII for imparting quality education to tribal children in their own environment.
EMRS’s agenda is to provide systematic guidance to keep the students of the campus intact and help develop the feeling of oneness. The residential schools also have special facilities for preserving local art and culture, apart from providing training in sports and skill development.
As per the extant guidelines of EMRS, the number of seats for boys and girls is equal in every such residential school, which has a capacity of accommodating 480 students. During 2019-20, enrollment of tribal girls in EMRS across the country has been 36,567. Other than imparting quality education to tribal students, funds are released for the construction of hostels, laboratories, libraries, sports equipment, coaching/training, among others.
However, the entire process cannot depend on the pillars of EMRS, as there is also a requirement of dedicated teachers who will diligently inject education among the children.
Scope for more
It has also been observed that though the development of the tribes is taking place in India, its pace has left much to be desired. Issues such as a low level of participation by tribal children need to be suitably addressed.
In addition, there is a need for strengthening educational opportunities and provisions for tribal students, not just in terms of physical infrastructure or financial allocations, but sensitively and more holistically, without de-linking or disaggregating planning and visioning across departments or between levels that tend to result in planning that is unidimensional.
It came to light that in rural areas, Schedule Tribes (STs) are at the bottom of 2.47% of households who owned any computing device, followed by Scheduled Castes (SCs) (3.27%). Therefore, there is an urgent need for various government interventions to ensure continuity in education during such an adverse situation in the future.
A unique residential model
Easy access and more opportunities should be provided to the tribal children in order to bring them to the mainstream of economic development.
The government can look towards harnessing the considerable experience of public-private partnership (PPP) entities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in school education while seeking an arrangement for collaborative engagement. The participation of the private sector and NGOs in managing and operating schools will be an enabler in providing a modern and high-quality framework for education and boost the sector to engage with many more projects under the PPP model.
It is only then that EMRS will emerge as a unique residential school model, which can help boost education and skill in rural and tribal-dominated regions in India, in true letter and spirit.
The author of this article, Rustom Kerawalla is Chairman, Ampersand Group
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