India passed the Right to Education Act in 2009 and committed the state to ensure that all chidren from 6-14 years of age have access to basic education. Though most primary school age children in India do enrol in school; as many as half fail to complete the elementary cycle successfully. In addition there are small numbers of children who never enrol and many of these are found in communities with livelihoods that require movement from place to place. The term nomads is often used to describe such communities. There are over 350 such groups formally identified in India.
This monograph explores the issues that surround access to education for nomads. It notes the apparent paradox that, though materially poor, many nomads have high levels of knowledge and skill about the environment that sustains them. This knowledge and skill is acquired outside any formal school system. But those who do participate in conventional schooling may be less capable of maintaining a viable nomadic lifestyle and risk becoming part of an underclass on the periphery of mainstream society. The monograph details several different approaches to making education available to school age children including mobile schools. It also notes that Jammu and Kashmir has been excluded from the right to education act – an omission that seems to compromise the rights of those nomads who live there. The monograph provides much food for thought about how to deliver promises on access to education in ways that are sympathetic to ways of life that will continue to be under threat as the Indian State modernises.
Sharma, A. South Asian Nomads - A Literature Review. In: CREATE Pathways to Access Series, Research Monograph Number 58. (2011) 1-97. ISBN 0-901881-65-1