As Rotary in India aims to make India fully literate by 2025, RC Bolpur Santiniketan, RID 3240, has opened two adult literacy centres in Sehalai and Bidyadharpur villages in Birbhum district of West Bengal. “We have set a target of making 100 adult illiterates, mostly women, literate in a year,” says Dr Biswadeb Chatterjee, club president.
Chatterjee has nurtured this dream of opening literacy centres since he became president-elect and began touring villages for selecting the right places. The two chosen villages, Sehalai and Bidyadharpur, have almost an equal sex ratio and tribals constitute over 60 per cent of the population. “Around 90 per cent of the population in both the villages belong to SC/ST category and are poor, illiterate, dependent on agricultural wages which are hard to come in most of the year,” he said.
Despite the lockdown and fear of the pandemic, he visited the villages falling under the Kasba gram panchayat to hold talks with the panchayat pradhan, gram sansad representatives and other leaders. “When we mooted the idea of a literacy centre, it was accepted with enthusiasm. The villagers were eager to learn to read and write and do some math just like their children,” he added.
While the centre in Sehalai is an open veranda of a primary school, in Bidyadharpur the classes are held in an open space of a farm house and during rains, the centre will be shifted to a house.
Rotary community corps were opened in the two villages in July so that volunteers can bring in women from homes and organise literacy classes for adults. To begin with, learners were provided with literacy kits including a slate and chalks by the club. “Two undergraduate students from the respective RCCs were made instructors. Gradually, Inner Wheel Club of Santiniketan and members of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) took part in the programme,” he said. Through the AIWC-Delhi office, the club’s literacy programme reached UNESCO, which referred to it on World Literacy Day on Sep 8.
The adult learners showed great progress in reading, writing Bengali alphabets, and doing basic math within the first three months of attending the centres. During his visit, DG Subhasis Chatterjee was pleasantly surprised to see an adult learner writing her name in neat, legible words. “I hope in a couple of months, the village women will be fully literate as per the norms of the RILM whose staff are invited to come and evaluate the neo-literates,” said Chatterjee.