Kerala's Hamlet Tribal Block: Attappady, one of the most backward tribal hamlets in Kerala, which was in the limelight for long for the wrong reasons like infant mortality, malnutrition, poverty and under development, is now slowly turning a new leaf. The settlement, located on the foothills of Nilgiri hills of Western Ghats in Palakkad district, is now on its path to achieving a rare feat- to become the first complete literate tribal block in the country. If everything goes as planned, the feat can be achieved within a year and an official announcement in this regard can be expected by June, 2020, official sources here said.
The Kerala State Literacy Mission (KSLM), which is implementing several programmes to achieve complete literacy among the marginalised groups including tribal, fisher-folk and migrant labours, is scheduled to launch the third phase of its literacy programme in Attappady on September 27.
With the completion of the project, the place can be declared as the first complete literate tribal block in the country as per the criteria set by UNESCO, KSLM director P S Sreekala said. According to the UN agency, a place can be declared as complete literate if more than 90 per cent of the native population attain literacy, she said.
A total of 5,031 people had been identified as illiterates in Attapapdy in a survey conducted prior to the launch of the KSLM's literacy-cum-equivalency drive for the first time there in December, 2016. Out of them, 1,117 people in the first phase and 2,553 in the second phase have become literate under the project, taking the total number of neo-literates to 3,670. "Now, only 1,361 people remain illiterate in the region. We are launching the third phase of the drive on September 27 to bring them also to the world ofliteracy", Sreekala said. The first and second phases had been successfully carried out in 192 settlements of Attapapdy Block, which comprises three village panchayats -Agali, Puthur and Sholayur, she noted.
Detailing the features of the project, the director said besides the literacy drive, the fourth standard equivalency course for the neo-literates was also progressing in the region. Equivalency programmes are organised with a view to provide an alternative education that is equal to the existing formal system of education, be it related to formal or vocations education, KSLM sources said.
Out of the total 275 instructors deployed for the implementation of the Attappady literacy programme, 218 were tribals themselves. An hour-long class, involving 15-25 students, is scheduled in each village daily. Free food is provided to the them through the 'community kitchen' initiative of the Kudumbashree, the state government's poverty eradication mission.
“Besides achieving the complete literate status, our objective is to ensure the neo-literates a facility to continue their studies as long as they wish. We have plans to provide newspapers and periodicals to them in their respective hamlets with the support of local self-government department," she added. Attappady, home to 32,956 tribals, is one of the most backward regions of the state. The major tribal communities living in the region are Irulas, Mudugas and Kurumbas. The hamlet had witnessed a large number of infant deaths due to malnutrition and genetic disorders in recent years.