The primary reason for this low literacy of course is the fact that 85% of the households in Alirajpur migrate seasonally for an average of three months in separate time spans each year to work in the construction industry and agriculture in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. This effectively throws a spanner into the education of children who have to go along with their parents and so miss out on schooling both in their residence and destination areas. The fragmentation of landholdings combined with a degradation of the land and surrounding forests have meant that agriculture and minor forest produce collection cannot provide adequate livelihoods to the Bhils and they are forced to migrate. A study conducted by the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has established that on an average a migrant worker earns about Rs 120 a day and after deducting all expenses a husband wife couple can bring back about Rs 3000 per month of net income to Alirajpur. Which works out to about Rs 60 to 70 crores brought in annually by all the migrating families. Thus, migration and the consequent illiteracy is a major compulsion for the Bhil tribals given that there are few schemes on the part of the Government of Madhya Pradesh to provide livelihood opportunities to the Bhils. Schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme are not functioning properly and only about 20% of the people get work and that too for a month or so instead of the mandatory hundred days. Then there are tremendous delays in getting the money.
However, the Bhils themselves do not see illiteracy as such a major drawback. Being hard manual workers and given the abysmal quality of education that is provided in the government schools they prefer to vote with their feet rather than labour over learning to read and write in what is essentially an alien language. Most literates have to go back to farming and labouring as they cannot hope to land a white collar job. This is why the Bhils have largely still retained their traditional culture and continue to enjoy the pleasures of illiteracy.
Nevertheless, it is of course important that all children get through the primary stage of education at least and this has become mandatory under the Right to Education Act. The KMCS runs a residential school, Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala, in Kakrana village on the banks of the Narmada River. The children learn first in their own mother tongue Bhilali and only later pick up Hindi which is the official language of the state. Many parents who migrate send their children to this school so that they do not miss out on their education. Residential schools like this one are what is required to jack up the literacy rate in the district as seasonal or circular migration has now become a widespread phenomenon and is going to increase as there is more and more investment in Gujarat. Instead the Government mostly has single teacher schools in place where the teachers pursue other money earning options and rarely visit the schools to which they have been posted.