While Rotarians are actively pursuing the goals set by Rotary India Literacy Mission, young Rotaractor Roshan Naveen (25) is on a cycle expedition from Kanyakumari to Kolkata to promote literacy and Rotary’s T-E-A-C-H programme.
A member of the Rotaract Club of Bangalore South, RI District 3190, Karnataka and inspired by Rotary’s pledge to eradicate illiteracy from India, Roshan has set out to create awareness among rural and semi-urban communities about this unique initiative that envisages total literacy by 2017. Beginning his expedition from Kanyakumari on July 2, his plan is to visit government schools across rural India, talk about Rotary’s literacy programme, survey and assess the kind of help these schools require and pass on the information to the nearest Rotary club for possible adoption and transformation into ‘Happy Schools.’ “I plan to do the groundwork for 600–700 schools,” says Roshan.
Ten days after starting, Roshan had pedaled his way to Chennai after covering the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. He was a celebrity visitor to the Rotary News office. “I wanted to join the Indian Army, but when I couldn’t get into it, Rotary’s cause for literacy seemed to be the perfect option. I understood that I need not be in the defence forces to serve our nation; sensitising parents and children about the significance of education and making India literate is indeed a way of serving the nation,” he says. His uncle Rtn. Raveen, a member of RC Cubbon Park, who is also his official co-ordinator has been a wonderful source of inspiration, says Roshan.
Every day has been a learning experience for Roshan. Did you know that India’s first school to have a water treatment plant was the Government Higher Secondary School at Nadukuppam in Tindivanam taluk? Or that the cows with a hump are indigenous cattle and those without are cross-bred; and the desi-cattle which yield 40–45 litres of milk are fewer in number when compared to the cross-bred variety. Rotarians of RI District 2980 shared such interesting facts with him during his visit there. And while at Chennai, Roshan learnt to make paper bags from Rotaractor Raman Mitra of Rotaract Club of MNM Jain College. He is happy that he has learnt the art as he is able to teach it to the students at schools that he visits.
Roshan’s expedition is as much adventurous too. He rides through the highways during the day, making stops at schools on his way and tucks in at a village for the night. He has interesting episodes to narrate back home — how he spent a night under the tree and another in an anchored boat. In Kanyakumari, he stayed at the Missionaries of Charity, where he offered to serve the 50 inmates in return for bed and dinner. This expedition has helped shape him as a better human being with such experiences and he is confident that he would return home a changed person at the end of it. A city-bred youth, Roshan who had done his schooling and college education in Bangalore, says that he finds this trip around the country-side educational too.
Occasionally some Rotaractors accompany him in his journey and they cycle to a nearby city together, visiting schools on the way. This is a positive trickle-down effect of Roshan’s initiative. Rotary clubs extend good support to him and Rotarians accommodate him during his stay, with some providing monetary support too. The clubs lap up the valuable information he has gathered about the schools in their locality with the resolve to extend a helping hand to some of the schools. An information sheet on what infrastructure the school has — toilet facilities, water, playground and sports equipment, library, furniture, computers, mid-day meals, number of teachers, their qualification, student-teacher ratio and much more, and what is the urgent requirement for the school, is filled up by the school head, and is later shared with the nearest Rotary club.
Roshan spends 45 minutes to an hour in a classroom and interact with the students, chatting about the importance of education and Rotary’s literacy mission. He also encourages the children to teach their parents and family members functional literacy — how to write their name, numbers and alphabets. He also introduces them to the basics of computers.
The Rotaractor was awed by the Gandhiji Middle School in Pondicherry which he rates as the best school. The school is run with support from an NGO called Mala Foundation from Belgium in association with RC Pondicherry Midtown, RI District 2980. The school is equipped with all amenities such as a 45” projector, 30 computers and an outstanding kitchen. But he also cites the sorry state of several schools in the rural areas without qualified teachers, no class rooms, no toilets or water facilities and open drainages. Such schools have to be adopted by Rotary clubs and transformed into Happy Schools to ensure children quality education.
Rotary India Literacy Mission Chair, PRID Shekhar Mehta, wished Roshan a successful trip and advised him to get Rotarians and non-Rotarians to register as volunteers for the Mission’s T-E-A-C-H programme (T: Teacher Training, E: E-learning; A: Adult Literacy; C: Child Development and H: Happy Schools) and for fund-raising for the cause of literacy. Zonal Literacy Co-ordinator PDG Rajendra Rai, RI District 3190, is also a huge support for Roshan in his mission, often guiding him and coordinating with the respective District leaders as he pedals into the various Districts.
Roshan is still on the move, visiting and assessing schools and linking them with the proximate Rotary clubs.