After a lot of struggle, Sheja VM, who hails from the Paniyan tribal community of Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad, was finally admitted to a degree course. She travelled all the way from her hometown in Wayanad with her family to Government College in Kottayam district to secure admission last month. But Sheja, however, could not obtain accommodation facilities.
This is not an isolated incident among tribal students in Kerala who are pursuing higher education. As more and more students from the community move towards higher education, the government has not yet succeeded in ensuring that these students have access to basic amenities. Some of the students are forced to travel significant distances every day to get to college on time.
â€śBy the time I took admission, the college hostel was already full. College authorities said they will try to make some arrangements, but I am not sure about it. Classes will soon start and we have decided to stay in my relativeâ€™s house in Kottayam till other facilities can be arranged,â€ť Sheja says.
Most tribal students secure college admission during the special allotment period, which is conducted specifically for the students of Scheduled Tribes. Though a specific number of seats are reserved for admission through special allotment, universities typically select these students after first and second allotments. They also conduct spot admissions, where the student has to go directly to the college for admissions. As a result, hostels are often filled up before these students can find a place to stay.
Sinjith, hailing from Kakkavayal in Wayanad district and a member of the Kattunayakan tribal community, also faced a similar issue. â€śThere was no hostel facility in the college where I secured admission for degree. But with the help of some organisations, some of us have rented a room and are staying here. But it is very difficult to meet travel expenses,â€ť says Sinjith, who is pursuing a degree in sound engineering.
Currently there are only three post-matriculation hostels for tribal students in the state, one each in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kozhikode. But these hostels do not meet the growing need of new degree students beginning their higher education.
Though Ernakulam is one of the most sought-after locations for tribal students pursuing higher education, there is no post-matriculation hostels for students belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community there.
Amidst the shortage of hostel facilities as well as financial difficulties, many students are turning to various organisations for assistance. Adishakthi, an organisation under Adivasi Gothramahasabha, promotes higher education of tribal students in the state. Jishnu from Wayanad continued his studies with the help of Adishakthi. â€śI was studying for my degree through distance education. But I had to drop out in between. Now with the help of Adishakthi, I have joined St Paulâ€™s College in Ernakulam district,â€ť Jishnu says.
But he also struggled with the lack of hostel facilities. He is currently staying in a private hostel with 16 other tribal students from Wayanad. â€śWe are also receiving some help from officials at Tribal Development office in Ernakulam,â€ť he says.
Meanwhile, as per the officials of Tribal Development Department, construction of a hostel for female tribal students pursuing higher education is underway in Ernakulam. â€śAfter listening to the issues of the students, we have also given a proposal to construct another hostel in Kakkanad. Land has been recognised for the project, we are waiting for the government to hand over the land to us,â€ť Anil Kumar, Tribal Development Officer (TDO) Muvattupuzha, told TNM.
Students are also demanding that the monthly E-Grantz â€” financial aid provided by the government â€” should be increased. â€śWe are getting about Rs 3,000, but for a student living in Kochi city, rent itself costs at least Rs 4,000,â€ť says Rajani, a student pursuing post-graduation.