language politics

By introducing bilingual education, Maharashtra hopes to keep Adivasi children in school

It's a model that requires a fine balance between two languages. Few states have tried it out.

Could Adivasi children be made to stay in school by teaching them in their own native language?

In a country where the primary school dropout rate among Scheduled Tribes is 31% – 11% more than the total national figure – this question perhaps deserves more attention. But in the past decade, only a handful of states have attempted to introduce Adivasi languages in government schools, Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh the most prominent among them.

The latest to join the list is Maharashtra, which has published a series of 12 educational books for primary school children in ten Adivasi languages. According to officials at the Maharashtra State Council of Education Research and Training in Pune, the books were published in March and are now being distributed in 15 districts for Adivasi children speaking Gondi, Warli, Bhili, Pavri, Korku, Nihali, Bhiroli, Mawachi, Kolami and Katkari.

“The aim of these educational books is to reduce the dropout rates among tribal children,” said Vaishali Jamdar, a senior official at the MSCERT. “If children are able to learn in their own mother tongues, they will take more interest in school.”

Does this approach work? According to education activists, Adivasi communities are often caught in the tussle between wanting recognition for their own languages and seeking socio-economic mobility in the larger world through the dominant languages of power. Bringing Adivasi languages into schools, then, is effective only if they are taught in a moderate, balanced manner.

Language of power?

The series of 12 books published in Maharashtra this year are neither intended to be textbooks, nor written solely in Adivasi languages. Rather, they are bilingual supplementary reading books with titles like “My house” and “To the market”, designed to teach students from Class 1 to 5 some basic everyday vocabulary in their mother tongues as well as in Marathi.

“Since our books are bilingual, they will also help teachers learn a few words of the local Adivasi language and understand where the students are coming from,” said Jamdar. “They can then use this vocabulary to help explain the rest of the Marathi syllabus to the students.”

This balanced approach to bilingual education is a result of trial and error in Maharashtra. Around two decades ago, the state had attempted to introduce a series of textbooks written completely in Adivasi languages, for the same purpose of retaining children in school. “But those books were not well-received by the communities,” said Nilesh Nimkar, director of Quality Education Support Trust, an education non-profit working with marginalised groups across Maharashtra. “The locals felt that the government wanted to keep them backward by not letting them study in Marathi, the language of power.”

This is something that other non-profits working in rural Maharashtra have also witnessed. “Down the years, we’ve made several attempts to bring tribal languages into formal schools,” said Godfrey D’Lima, director of Nashik’s Prabodhan Seva Mandal, an NGO that conducts tutorial programmes for marginalised government school children. “But the people wanted schools to teach Marathi and English and not their own dialect, because they want their children to eventually communicate with the larger world.”

Odisha and Jharkhand

Perhaps the most successful “mainstreaming” of Scheduled Tribe languages has been in Odisha, where the state government has been offering bilingual primary education for the past ten years. The state has extensively published textbooks in ten different Adivasi languages, and children are taught in their mother tongues from Class 1 to 5. But Odia is introduced as a subject in Class 2 itself, to prepare students for a shift to the state language in secondary school.

“The government has also taken care to appoint Adivasi teachers in schools so that they can teach bilingually,” said Dilip Dash, a spokesperson from Odisha-based NGO Antodaya. “Many government schools also use bilingual wall paintings as an educational tool.”

The outcome of this approach is evident in the numbers: In the past three years, Odisha was able to bring down its school dropout rate by a significant 12%.

In Jharkhand, 12 Adivasi languages have been recognised by the state, and textbooks are published and distributed in all of them, right up to the level of higher education. “Schools are run in Hindi medium, and students can pick a tribal language as their second language,” said Gladson Dungdung, an Adivasi rights activist from Jharkhand’s Kharia community.

The textbooks help students to fare quite well in their Adivasi mother tongues, but Jharkhand’s failure, according to Dungdung, is its severe shortage of teachers across all levels of education. “When there are few teachers and when students barely understand Hindi, they obviously don’t do well in school.”

The case of Chhattisgarh

If there is one state that has a glaring need to incorporate Adivasi languages into schools, it is Chhattisgarh. And yet, the state government has done nothing so far to officially recognise its many Sheduled Tribe languages, including Gondi, Kuduk and others. The gap has been filled not just by NGOs but also by Maoist groups.

In the past decade, Maoists in Chhattisgarh have built their own parallel schools – not officially recognised – that are run in Gondi medium and use locally-printed textbooks in all subjects, including science and math. For Gondi children who feel lost in the state’s Hindi-medium schools, these informal schools have emerged as their only source of meaningful education.

“Gondi as a language is very different from Hindi, but the state is making no efforts to recognise it as a scheduled language,” said Shubhranshu Choudhary, the founder of CGNet Swara, a non-profit organisation that enables rural reportage and communication in Chhattisgarh through locally developed radio networks. The organisation also runs a small website in the Gondi script to promote the language.

“But why should we be the ones making these efforts? Because of the state’s apathy, Gondi children drop out of schools at a high rate and end up joining the Maoists,” said Choudhary. “It would definitely help if at least primary education in these parts was conducted in Gondi.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Why do our clothes fade, tear and lose their sheen?

From purchase to the back of the wardrobe – the life-cycle of a piece of clothing.

It’s an oft repeated story - shiny new dresses and smart blazers are bought with much enthusiasm, only to end up at the back of the wardrobe, frayed, faded or misshapen. From the moment of purchase, clothes are subject to wear and tear caused by nature, manmade chemicals and....human mishandling.

Just the act of wearing clothes is enough for gradual erosion. Some bodily functions aren’t too kind on certain fabrics. Sweat - made of trace amounts of minerals, lactic acid and urea - may seem harmless. But when combined with bacteria, it can weaken and discolour clothes over time. And if you think this is something you can remedy with an antiperspirant, you’ll just make matters worse. The chemical cocktail in deodorants and antiperspirants leads to those stubborn yellowish stains that don’t yield to multiple wash cycles or scrubbing sessions. Linen, rayon, cotton and synthetic blends are especially vulnerable.

Add to that, sun exposure. Though a reliable dryer and disinfectant, the UV radiation from the sun causes clothes to fade. You needn’t even dry your clothes out in the sun; walking outside on a sunny day is enough for your clothes to gradually fade.

And then there’s what we do to our clothes when we’re not wearing them - ignoring labels, forgetting to segregate while washing and maintaining improper storage habits. You think you know how to hang a sweater? Not if you hang it just like all your shirts - gravity stretches out the neck and shoulders of heavier clothing. Shielding your clothes by leaving them in the dry-cleaning bag? You just trapped them in humidity and foul odour. Fabrics need to breathe, so they shouldn’t be languishing in plastic bags. Tossing workout clothes into the laundry bag first thing after returning home? It’s why the odour stays. Excessive moisture boosts fungal growth, so these clothes need to be hung out to dry first. Every day, a whole host of such actions unleash immense wear and tear on our clothes.

Clothes encounter maximum resistance in the wash; it’s the biggest factor behind premature degeneration of clothes. Wash sessions that don’t adhere to the rules of fabric care have a harsh impact on clothes. For starters, extra effort often backfires. Using more detergent than is indicated may seem reasonable for a tub full of soiled clothes, but it actually adds to their erosion. Aggressive scrubbing, too, is counterproductive as it worsens stains. And most clothes can be worn a few times before being put in the wash, unless of course they are sweat-soaked gym clothes. Daily washing of regulars exposes them to too much friction, hastening their wear and tear.

Different fabrics react differently to these abrasive agents. Natural fabrics include cotton, wool, silk and linen and each has distinct care requirements. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are sensitive to heat and oil.

A little bit of conscious effort will help your clothes survive for longer. You can start by lessening the forces acting on the clothes while washing. Sort your clothes by fabric instead of colour while loading them in the washing machine. This helps save lighter fabrics from the friction of rubbing against heavier ones. It’s best to wash denim materials separately as they are quite coarse. For the same reason, clothes should be unzipped and buttoned before being tossed in the washing machine. Turning jeans, printed clothes and shirts inside out while loading will also ensure any abrasion is limited to the inner layers only. Avoid overloading the washing machine to reduce friction between the clothes.

Your choice of washing tools also makes a huge difference. Invest in a gentler detergent, devoid of excessive dyes, perfumes and other unnecessary chemicals. If you prefer a washing machine for its convenience, you needn’t worry anymore. The latest washing machines are far gentler, and even equipped to handle delicate clothing with minimal wear and tear.

Bosch’s range of top loading washing machines, for example, care for your everyday wear to ensure they look as good as new over time. The machines make use of the PowerWave Wash System to retain the quality of the fabrics. The WaveDrum movement adds a top-down motion to the regular round action for a thorough cleaning, while the dynamic water flow reduces the friction and pulling forces on the clothes.


The intelligent system also creates water displacement for better movement of clothes, resulting in lesser tangles and clothes that retain their shape for longer. These wash cycles are also noiseless and more energy efficient as the motor is directly attached to the tub to reduce overall friction. Bosch’s top loading washing machines take the guesswork away from setting of controls by automatically choosing the right wash program based on the load. All that’s needed is a one-touch start for a wash cycle that’s free of human errors. Read more about the range here. You can also follow Bosch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.