How A Tribal Girl’s Death In An Andhra School Speaks Of A Neglected But Growing Problem

Posted on December 28, 2015

News by YKA Staff:

Rajahmundry (AP), Dec 28: A class VII ailing girl student of a residential tribal welfare school died allegedly due to lack of timely medical help, following which the school headmistress has been suspended, officials said today.

Latha Durga Jyothi was suffering from fever and vomiting since December 21, but the school authorities allegedly neither informed her parents nor the doctors about her health, they said. However, later some residential school students apparently informed about Jyothi’s illness to her parents, who live in a nearby village, following which they rushed to the school and admitted her to a local private hospital on Friday.

Photo courtesy: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Photo courtesy: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

As her condition deteriorated, the parents shifted to another hospital on Saturday where she died, Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Rampachodavaram, project officer R Chakaradhara Rao said.

After taking note of the incident, the school headmistress was suspended for dereliction on duty, he said.

A medical examination of other girl students in the school was being conducted, he added.

It is pertinent to mention that the model of Andhra Pradesh Residential Schools was adopted for the purpose of setting up new schools on similar lines. Deaths in residential tribal welfare schools are a long-standing problem. In February last year, a Parliament Standing Committee report noted that 793 deaths had occurred in such schools between 2001 to 2013 in Maharashtra alone. The causes of deaths were snake or scorpion bites and minor ailments, among others.

Expressing “shock” over the high number of deaths, the Committee stated that it had to be a matter of “criminal neglect” on behalf of the school authorities in ensuring that the ailing students received timely treatment. It also recommended regular health check-ups and provision of immediate first-aid in these schools.

The report also noted that literacy rates among tribals was the lowest among all social groups in India; not only that, the drop-out rates of students from tribal communities remained much higher than others. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs had issued revised guidelines for setting up these schools also called as Eklavya Model Residential Schools in 2010. These guidelines had also mentioned the need for medical facilities being made available in the school.

The functioning of these schools is also marred by several other problems, like absentee teachers and sub-standard food, as has been reported. Other than deaths, sexual harassment of tribal girl students has also been alleged in these residential hostels.

Back in 2009, the Bombay High Court had lambasted the functioning of these schools as “pathetic.” Without the provision of adequate medical facilities in these schools, which are supposed to be located in tribal areas, the government’s stated intent of educating every child in the country under the Right to Education Act will remain a non-starter.

Unless the government takes the Standing Committee report seriously, in this and other regards, the entire plan of providing education to tribal children by keeping them in residential schools will come undone.

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