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Essay on illiteracy in India
Essays on Illiteracy In India
How can we eradicate illiteracy in India?
Illiteracy in India is a phenomenon about which most people in the advanced world can hardly imagine. The number of Indians who cannot read or write or do the simplest of sums, is about 32,88,79,000 and includes 20,05,17,000 women as well, according to HRD Minister in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon session, 1998.
In the Indian village, illiteracy keeps people chained to ignorance, inaction and exploitation in a number of ways. For instance, a villager might refuse primary medical care for his family while putting his faith in healer’s mumbo-jumbo.
Or a small time farmer could commit such irrational acts as staking his entire savings with a charlatan who promises to unearth some hidden treasure from the fields! Those, who fall into the clutches of moneylenders, fail to imagine that government loans and subsidies are like aims to be ignored. These are instances to prove that literacy has to go beyond the ordinary calculations and language skills and has to help in the creation of a climate of better understanding and self- confidence among the masses.
In the series of attempts to raise literacy levels, the latest is the setting up of a National Literacy Mission Authority-an autonomous body with a very wide ambit for research, implementation, coordination and monitoring activities. The Authority would also devise new strategies and would correct earlier deficiencies which were revealed by a number of field studies. With each decennial census, the number of literates has gone up. But in the last census, the slight consolation provided by rise in literacy was largely offset by a tremendous rise in the number of illiterates.
When the planning process started in 1951, barely 16 per cent the population could claim knowledge of an alphabet or numbers. This literacy rate had shown an increase from 48.56 per cent in 1981 to 52.11 per cent in 1991. It was 36.17 per cent in 1971. In absolute terms, the rate must have been even. higher as the total population included the 0-4 age group also. But as the population is growing at much faster rate, the absolute number of illiterates in the country is growing up although their percentage viz-a-viz, the total population might decline.
The situation is indeed very grim and calls for corrective measures on a large scale. Accordingly to Shri M. M. Joshi, Union HRD Minister in a statement in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon, 1998 session, UP has the highest number of illiterates (6,’ 47, 69, 000) and Kerala is the most literate state with literacy level touching almost 100 per cent in that State.
It is difficult to imagine that effort for family planning would check galloping population and by then, existing and likely-to-be enlarged institutional facilities would take care of literacy levels. The population had increased by 78 million between 1951 and 1961 but between 1961 and 1971, the increase has nearly been 110 million. Between 1971 and 1981, it rose by 137 million and between 1981 and 1991, it rose by another 160 million-a rate formidable enough, despite of the much-lauded intensive family planning programmes.
Gone are the days when primary school children had to make a daily walk of six or seven kilometres up and down. Further, education today, up to the secondary level, is free. The problem arises when children are not just enrolled because the parents lack awareness about the benefits of education and facilities existing or because of other social compulsions.
When the illiterate husband and wife go out to work and the seven-year-old elder child perforce has to sit at home taking care of her a siblings. Girl children, in any case, are placed at a greater disadvantage as they are destined for the kitchens in Indian homes.
Even those who get enrolled in a school, become regular absentees or even drop out to help in supplementing the family income Long term gains are sacrificed for immediate basic needs. For the small farmer, urban laborer and the fisherman, a teenaged child represents a pair of extra hands.
The programme of adult education becomes all too important in this context. It is an informal programme which takes into account the free time available to the villagers and also their village convenience in attending the classes: The classes are usually held at night in an easily accessible place in the village neighborhood
The Literacy Mission Authority may be formulating new designs for the curriculum, new techniques of teaching and measures for greater motivation to ensure participation but all these would not surmount the problems faced by teachers and learners in the adult education centers.
In many places, the atmosphere is hardly conducive for teaching. There have been instances of classes being held in the yard of a provision store or an abandoned building with broken walls and dirty floors. Electricity, water, benches for students and blackboards for teachers pose other problems in this context. Most classes do not have essential teaching tools either. The incentives given to teachers would also have to be raised in order to ensure their participation and commitment. People have now begun to realize that adult education classes are not training grounds for white collar jobs but for helping villagers improve their trade skills and farm practices for more profits and efficiency. Somehow, there did not evolve so much of job- orientation in such cases as was done in the case of classes held by the staff of development blocks in agriculture and applied nutrition. The scenario in workers’ education centers attached to industrial establishments may be slightly better due to greater trade union involvement. But the functional literacy classes in villages still need much improvement.
Within less than a year, this century would come to an end and this would be a crucial period to decide and see whether India would be able to get rid of the bane of illiteracy. The success of the literacy mission would decide whether 40 per cent of her population would tide over the poverty barrier. The World Bank and UNESCO reports have established that India’s low per capita income is related to her high rate of illiteracy. By controlling the 20,05,17, 000 illiterate women in India, the mission could control population and high infant mortality.
India has been in the forefront of literacy programmes. Dr. Malcolm Adiseshiah, renowned educationist and Ex-Deputy Director General of UNESCO, dreamt of a fully literate India. In 1990, Dr. Parmeswaran’s volunteers held a workshop in Pondicherry to spread four themes-the world we live in, literacy for liberation, and literacy for women and health for all. In Madhya Pradesh, folk groups used music and theatre to spread the benefits of literacy and science.
The troupes wandered in the villages of India for 40 days to perform about 50,000 street plays. Safdar Hashmi’s street theatre group and MK Raina’s troupe perform in slums and villages around Delhi. University students would be trained to take over as camp guides. Dr. Parmeswaran thought that his programme was better than 1,000 lectures and would excite a sense of wonder in learning. The future success of the on-going literacy programmes is to be judged by 2000 A.D. Education in the schools, colleges and universities is meaningless as it does not fetch jobs. The teaching curricula are obsolete and teaching methods are primitive. The vacation oriented educational system is likely to take over in the next century. It would do good to India.