Express News Service
KOCHI: She used to flutter around like a butterfly in Uriampatti, a tribal settlement located deep inside Kuttampuzha forest. A chatterbox, the five-year-old loved playing with her friends and to sleep hugging her mother.
Now, two weeks after joining the pre-matric hostel at Mathirappilly near Kothamangalam, Saranya (name changed) is yet to come to terms with the reality. From the tranquil tribal colony, her life has suddenly been shifted to a semi-urban village and the emotional trauma of separation is taking a toll on the child.
The state government decision to shut down alternate learning centers in remote tribal colonies has not only affected the teachers but has also devastated the lives of children who are forced to shift to Model Residential Schools (MRS) and pre-matric hostels at a very young age . In these congested hostel buildings, students from Classes 1 to XII jostle for space.
According to phycologists, separation from the family makes the child a stranger both in their traditional environment and the adopted urban surroundings, sometimes leading to depression. Besides, the children will be able to meet their parents only during the Onam, X’mas and summer vacations. There are 79 children at the tribal girls’ hostel at Mathirappilly near Muvattupuzha – 13 of them class I students and nine Class II students.
“Most of the children face emotional issues in the initial days as they are staying away from the family for the first time. But they adapt very fast, mainly with the help of other children from the same settlement. Only two children were depressed after reaching the hostel, but they adapted to the environment fast.
The mother of one of the children had some emotional issues and the family members took the child to the colony last week, ”said hostel warden Sunitha. Parents agree that the children are getting good food and care at the Mathirappilly tribal hostel.
‘Cultural difference can add to trauma of children’
There are two watchmen and three cooks to take care of the children and tuition teachers to help them with their studies. Also, a person has been appointed to wash the clothes of primary students. “Most of the tribal hostels and MRSs are crowded and the emotional issues are often ignored.
During my visit to a tribal hostel in Malappuram district last year, I found a child suffering from fever and there was nobody to attend to him. Most of the staff at tribal hostels belong to non-tribal communities and they don’t understand the emotional issues of these children, ”said tribal activist Chitra Nilambur.
“The government should start anganwadis in all tribal settlements and students up to class IV should be allowed to study in their traditional environment,” said C Vinod, a member of the Cholanayka community in Maancheri in Malappuram district, who is pursuing PhD in ‘The socio economic shift among Cholanayka and Katunayka communities’.
“Tribal children lose their traditional values and end up in a strange environment after being shifted to hostels. I went through such emotions during my schooldays and even thought of dropping out many times. The cultural differences force many students to drop out after reaching high school, ”he said.
“In our community, only after children turn eight do the parents take them along to collect forest produce,” he added. Separating a child from the mother at five will cause separation anxiety disorder, said psychiatrist Dr CJ John. “The child will develop emotional issues if he / she is suddenly removed from the comfort of parental care.
The mother will also have emotional issues. If the psychological impact is not handled properly, it will adversely affect the child’s character, ”he said. The cultural difference can add to the trauma in the case of tribal children.
“They should be shifted to the new environment carefully and the mother should play a key role in the process. In the new environment, the warden should be trained to compensate for the loss of parental care, ”he added.
- No of pre-matric hostels: 106
- No of post-matric hostels: 5
- No of Model Residential Schools: 20
- No of students in Model Residential Schools: 5,500
- Tribal students from Classes I to XII: 82,000 6,000 New enrolments this year:
- Tirbal comminutions in Kerala: 37
- Tribal population: 4,84,839
- Literacy rate: 74.4%
- GothraSarathi Scheme: Transportation for tribal students to reach schools. Facility arranged this year by education department, local bodies and school PTAs.