Paappa braved the forces of nature all her childhood, teenage and adulthood. A native of Nakkupathi tribal village, Attappadi, Paappa got married and gave birth to her children at a very young age. She collected honey, medicinal herbs and twigs from the forest, and sold them in the market downhill to earn a living. But the inability to read the price charts and understand market standards always troubled her. She had to settle for whatever the shopkeepers offered her for her products and ascended the hills without complaints. She is not sure whether she had been deceived by 'society men' in the past but she could never be tricked anymore. Now, at 88, Paappa cleared the fourth-standard equivalence examination conducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) with high scores!
Like Paappa, the oldest winner of KSLMA's tribal literacy drive, 1,975 other women too cleared the examination KSLMA had conducted in December 2017. About 2,553 tribals cleared the equivalence examinations which constitutes 97% of the candidates who took the tests.
In all, 2,624 people attended the examinations held across 138 centres. Puthoor tribal village has the highest number of winners - 1269 and 830 people cleared the test in Agali and 434 in Sholayoor.
KSLMA had conducted the literacy drive for four remote tribal villages of Attappadi, Agali, Sholayoor and Puthur. It used an exclusive tribal literacy syllabus for the study classes. It had three modules - reading, writing and basic mathematics - to impart preliminary knowledge. Students required 30 out of 100 marks to clear the tests. In the first phase 1,117 people cleared the literacy examinations.
In the second and final phase, which would equip adult learners for the fourth-standard equivalence grade, evening study classes were organised at 40 selected settlements. The campaign was appreciated by the state government and local-self governing authorities as it helped to improve the life standards of tribal people. Regular attendance at the evening classes had reduced alcoholism and increased financial savings among tribal folk.
Among the 275 literacy instructors employed to impart education, 218 are from the tribal community. Mostly women, the literacy instructors were the earlier beneficiaries of KSLMA's Wayanad literacy drive.
Commenting on the achievement, state literacy mission director Dr PS Sreekala said that the mission is focusing on disadvantaged communities in its drive to promote literacy and equivalence education. "We give prominence to social literacy along with reading, writing and mathematical skills so that along with academic knowledge, the beneficiaries will also lead a better social life," she told Onmanorama.
KSLMA had started a comprehensive literacy drive to eradicate illiteracy from Kerala's tribal belts, employing over 800 instructors. They were selected exclusively from the native tribal villages to improve the interaction with the learners.