Illiteracy and India

Illiterates are simply those who can’t learn, read or write. But does that translate into those who can’t learn, earn, read, breed; that those who can’t write are never right?

Why do many poor children not attend school? The response usually heard is that their families are too poor afford the education, and that the Government has been lax in establishing free education facilities at the primary level. Undoubtedly, these are responsible, but a little piece of news doing the rounds is that millions of kids are out of school because the places reserved for them by law were instead given to others like you and me. Although poverty and illiteracy have come down percentage-wise, the number of poor and illiterate people is going up, primarily because of unchecked population growth. Low productivity, ignorance and superstitions are the other causes.

Think about what you would miss if you could not decipher what was on the side of your medication; know what television show is coming up on your cable, or even read the daily news. The loss is insurmountable.

Poverty and illiteracy are linked to each other. The more the illiteracy, the more will be unemployment, which in turn, would encourage child labour. How many jobs can you think of, that do not require you to read or write? This is like carnaging the mass without any weapons.

Effective learning and communication in this computer age is difficult without literacy, so is acquisition and sharing of knowledge and information. Literacy empowers the citizens of the country with weapons of rational thinking, liberty, cohesiveness and mutual understanding.

Literacy is a big force in alienating undemocratic forces and social and economic problems like terrorism, communalism etc.

Etiquettes are also closely related to literacy. You’re likely to behave in an organized and decent manner if you know when to do what. This creates a distinct line between the illiterate and the literate.

World Bank studies have established the direct and functional relationship between literacy and productivity on one hand, and literacy and the overall quality of human life on the other. I feel that, Progress = Successful people/Total Population.

So people are the common denominator of progress. In fact, literacy is considered a pre-requisite for the physical and mental growth of people and the development of the nation as a whole. It is high time people in power realize the urgency to act now to solve the problems.

A certain percentage of seats should be set aside for indigent children and their education should be funded by government. Schools should be allowed to simply buy off the land allotted to them at market rates, and extricate themselves from the burden of having to provide free education. Elementary schooling should be made universal. A new Gurukul scheme needs to be implemented – shifting the initiative to single-teacher schools in every street. NGO’s can be involved in this project to identify the eligible children and enroll them in schools. Free food and books can be distributed through the NGO’s. In conclusion, “Literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” —Former US President Bill Clinton

Ashish Chowdhary

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