To realise the full potential and benefits of economic development, we have to unlock the full potential of our human resources. “That can’t happen if we choose not to empower 50 per cent of our population. Our nation’s future depends on how well we empower the women in our families and skill them to be part of the mainstream.”
With these words RI Director A S Venkatesh presented a session on literacy at the Rotary presidential conference in Hyderabad. Highlighting Rotary India Literacy Mission’s (RILM) role in addressing illiteracy in the country, he referred to the 2011 Census that puts India’s literacy at 74 per cent. “This means 26 per cent of our population (33 crore, of around 130 crore people) was illiterate. We’ve not yet got the 2021 Census. But I can safely say that we would have certainly made substantial progress now, thanks to the relentless efforts of RILM.”
Complimenting RI President Shekhar Mehta for the huge success of RILM, Venkatesh said, “For the past decade he has been spending sleepless nights to design and formulate each vertical of TEACH that addresses all aspects of education. In the years to come, our efforts will certainly pay off and we will soon see a fully literate India.”
Complimenting Venkatesh’s active role in RILM’s development, Mehta said, “When I started the programme, he was my sounding board, receiving all the crazy ideas that came to my mind.”
Gung-ho about the nationwide reach of RILM’s e-learning vertical, the RI president informed the delegates that 2,500 episodes of educational content developed by RILM are now being beamed on the Prime Minister’s e-Vidya channel. “That is equivalent to 10 years of a television serial telecast 30 minutes every day, five days a week. This e-learning content will flash RILM’s name on the TV screen, making this an effective public image exercise for Rotary. Every day 10 crore children are attending classes on this channel.”
In Hyderabad RILM inked five MoUs at the conference.
An agreement signed with the D L Shah Trust, Mumbai, will bring in ₹1.2 crore to RILM for its e-learning programme. RILM chair Kamal Sanghvi spoke about the genesis of this agreement. When schools were closed following Covid, 25 crore government school children nation-wide were stuck at home. NCERT contacted President Mehta to address the issue through RILM to sustain the children’s interest in learning. RILM developed the largest e-learning programme in just five months. “Now that Covid is behind us, various state governments are signing up for the e-learning programme with RILM to implement uniform education for children in all states and villages. That’s when we got in touch with the D L Shah Trust through PDG Vijay Jalan. The MoU will provide financial and knowledge support to help RILM develop the modules in various languages.”
One of the trustees K K Nohria presented a cheque of ₹50 lakh to Sanghvi at the conference. About 286 e-learning modules for class 11 (English) and class 12 (Science stream) will be launched soon, he said.
An interaction with 65-year-old Tai and her daughter-in-law Jothi highlighted how they have benefitted from RILM’s adult literacy programme. Both of them work as domestic help. “I have never in my lifetime sat and had a decent conversation, let alone, sit here on a stage and talking with so many of you learned people. My legs are shivering but I feel so good, and I enjoy this confidence only because of you ‘Rotarywalon’ who are helping me get educated,” said Tai. “I am happy to attend classes with my three bahus and do the homework sitting along with my grandchildren.” Jothi vowed “to educate both my son and daughter so that they have a bright future. And I will work hard and do whatever it takes to provide them good education.”
RILM signed an MoU with TCS represented by its CSR head Sunil Joseph for financial and functional literacy for adults and another agreement was signed with Operation Eyesight Universal, a Canadian organisation, for eyesight screening in school students. Rotary India has initiated a project to provide spectacles free of cost to 1 lakh students across the country, said Sanghvi.
Tablets for students
Under an MoU with Kartikeya Sharma, founder, ITV Group and the head of the edu-tech platform First in Class, one lakh children of armed force, police and paramilitary personnel across the country, who died in the service of the nation, will receive mobile Tablets loaded with audio-visual content in 12 languages. Rajya Sabha MP, PDG Vivek Tankha helped in forging the partnership. An app, a joint effort of NCERT, First in Class and RILM, is being developed for vocational training too, said Sanghvi.
An MoU was signed with CRY represented by its CEO Puja Marwaha for Asha Kiran programme. PDG Rajalakshmi Vadlamani signed an MoU with Rtn Veerabhadra Rao Reddy who will send 2,000 school dropouts in Vishakapatnam back to school under project Asha Kiran through his NGO Samida.
Pictures by Jaishree