I am sure all clubs would have retained many members and also inducted new members in August. I welcome all the new Rotarians and request them to attend Rotary meetings regularly and learn more about Service and Fellowship. Since September is the Basic Education and Literacy month, it is time to look at schools in communities around us to understand the present status of basic education and literacy to enable us to do the best activities in this area for our communities. Only when we do so, our clubs will understand the need to improve learning outcomes, increase community involvement and influence teaching practices, particularly in elementary schools. Both State and Central Governments have adequate budgetary allocations to enhance the level of literacy and standards of learning in primary education —the challenge is to ensure these funds are well spent and outcomes are tangible.
To promote literacy at primary school level, we supplement the efforts at schools which are already in the right learning process. As in Polio Eradication, where Rotary identified inaccessible communities and educated and influenced them about the importance of early immunisation, we should plan our involvement in a way as not to supplant government initiatives but act as a catalyst to the government programmes, thereby contributing to their success.
I know how much thrust was given by Rotary for functional literacy worldwide few decades ago. Let us reach out to those in our local communities with poor primary literacy levels and make them understand that basic education and functional literacy enable community participation in various beneficial schemes of the government. By this we ensure that the benefits of such schemes actually reach the intended beneficiaries and are not swallowed by intermediaries. Adult literacy also requires our attention and this can be facilitated through our functional literacy programmes.
Friends, here is the inspirational story of Rtn Carl Sanders who is in his fifties, his name was referred by PRIP Kalyanda last year in Rotary News. Carl Sanders owns a small business in Kenosha, USA. A couple of years ago, a business associate invited Carl to join the Kenosha Rotary Club, D 6270. Carl felt it will be good for business and became a member. His little secret was that he couldn’t read very well. He had barely made it to the ninth grade when he dropped out of school. He had heard about the local Literacy Council from a fellow Rotarian. Carl told him about his problem and the Rotarian put Carl in touch with the Literacy Council, where he met a volunteer, who helped him — so much that Carl is now a Past President of the Rotary club!
Establishing a Literacy Programme in clubs will be a good start. We can invite local volunteers to address our members and they can provide valuable overview of the efforts taken in our communities and identify the areas in which the club’s contribution would be most beneficial. Promoting basic and functional literacy training programme in our local schools involves a long-term commitment. Rotary clubs should be prepared to continue their projects well beyond the current year. To ensure continuity, seek the support of the DGN as well as club president-elect and look for sources of long-term financial support, such as that provided by government grants, participant fees, or funding (cash/kind such as teaching aids, furniture etc) by fellow Rotarians and interested philanthropists.
Let us invite Rotary’s partners in service. Let us involve them in our Literacy Programme. Every Rotary club has sponsored at least one each of a Rotary Community Corps, Rotaract club and Interact club. The need of the hour is to involve members of these groups and encourage them to undertake literacy projects of their own in a small way.
Remember the International Literacy Day on September 8 is an opportunity for every club to promote its own project and spread literacy awareness in general. Clubs can take a lead and present awards to literacy volunteers on that day as a means of promoting awareness and publicising the programmes/projects done in the local print/visual media.
By involving and contributing to local communities Rotary helps make a difference!
Director, Rotary International