All about Literacy

RILM Chair Shekhar Mehta with RSALS Chair J B Kamdar. Also seen: PDGs W Anand, Benjamin Cherian, Basu Dev Golyan, S Krishnaswami and DGN Babu Peram.
RILM Chair Shekhar Mehta with RSALS Chair J B Kamdar. Also seen: PDGs W Anand, Benjamin Cherian, Basu Dev Golyan, S Krishnaswami and DGN Babu Peram.

Teachers should be the highest paid and most respected professionals in any society. But unfortunately, it is not so in our country. You may be a chartered accountant or an engineer, an expert in building bridges or saving precious lives, but who made you all? We all owe it to our teachers. Without them we are nowhere.” With these words, Shekhar Mehta addressed a joint meeting of 15 Rotary clubs in Chennai. The event was a prelude to the upcoming Rotary South Asia Literacy Summit to be held in the city during March 3–5.

“Three years ago, when Rotary began the literacy programme, we had no clue as to what we will achieve. All that we aimed for was ‘Total Literacy’ and today, RILM (Rotary India Literacy Mission) has become a holistic programme and a ‘movement’,” he said. He is confident that today as RILM introduces the best technology in education for remote regions; in two years, a child studying in a village will be at par with one studying in a city convent school. The village children will have a level playing field, for, the teachers are being supplemented and trained to use sophisticated software for teaching, he added.

Looking into the future, he said that with Rotarians’ support, when they have created happy schools, trained teachers, provided e-learning facilities, the school drop-out rate of children will go down and their comprehension of the subjects will improve and that is the day total literacy will happen all over India. The success of the programme is so much that “with support from governments and corporates, we are experiencing a strange scenario where money is chasing our Literacy programme.”

The Literacy summit is being held by rotation in the north, south, east and western regions of the country so that maximum number of participants can benefit and it will enhance the public image of the programme enough for other NGOs and corporates to invest in it. He said Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s address during last year’s Literacy summit brought in Rs 1.6 crore.

Presenting the year’s report card of the TEACH verticals, he said that the national goal for Teacher Support for the year — to train 5,000 teachers —
has already been surpassed. District 3131 has trained 5,000 teachers against their goal of 10,000; and District 3160 has completed training of 2,300 teachers. “This is not history, geography but we teach them classroom management, teaching skills and personality development so that they shape the students in a better way.”

Coming to E-learning, Mehta said Gujarat has installed digital classrooms in 7,063 schools, impacting 3 million children, having signed an MoU with the State government.  Mega MoUs wih the SBI and ­Maharashtra Government were on the anvil. “Children want to attend school on Saturdays too as they find learning so much interesting now. In two years’ time, we want to take it to every school in the country,” he added.

His story of Kanaglata Bormu, an adult illiterate-turned-learner who set aside the stamp pad and went on to sign her name to open a bank account, stating that she is no longer a anguthachaap (illiterate), summed up the road travelled in Adult Literacy.

In the field of Child Development, about 45,000 children are being taught by 4,000 teachers in 3,176 Asha Kiran centres set up in 7,700 villages across the country. He highlighted the activities of RC ­Jaipur Midtown in converting 10 government schools into Happy Schools, benefitting 15,500 children approximately, at a cost of Rs 52.5 lakh.

“We have to make India literate by tomorrow, let’s work like that,” he said, to a Rotarian’s query on the deadline set for Total Literacy in India.

RSALS Chair J B Kamdar, giving an overview of the summit, said that around 4,000 delegates are expected to attend. n

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