Problem of Adult Illiteracy
Adult illiteracy is one of the major problems in our country. It is a real handicap in the economic and social development of a democratic country. In a democracy, the success of a government depends on the degree of education the masses have, for it is the masses that elect their representatives who form the government. If the masses are not educated, enlightened and aware of the happenings in their country, then there is every possibility of their being exploited. Therefore, adult literacy is very important to ensure the smooth function of democratic institutions.
For centuries, Indian masses have been steeped in ignorance, poverty and backwardness. They have no time for educating their young ones who join the work force at a tender age. In a country, where 70% of the population depends on agriculture, rural folks consider children, specially male, as helping hands to add to family income. Parents are not anxious to send them to school. In fact, education is considered an obstacle. A farmer’s son who earns a degree becomes unfit for farming and rural life. He prefers to live in the city, even if it is a life of abject poverty, squalor and slums. On the contrary, if he gets some training in his own trade, there is a chance of his doing better in life. Therefore, adult literacy programs have to be functional in character. They should be linked with the work and the life of the people so that they serve as a tool for rural development.
Television has proved to be a very effective audio-visual aid in promoting awareness among the uneducated. Programs on family planning, better farming techniques, child welfare, etc. are extremely beneficial and educative. Radio has also been rendering a very useful service to the illiterate masses by designing programs for the enlightenment.
Educational institutions have also started correspondence courses and informal courses which do not require any regular attendance. These are a boon to millions of students who had to discontinue their formal education owing to family constraints, lack of motivation or because of residing in remote areas. These have benefited individuals who look upon education as a life-time activity and may like to refresh their knowledge in an existing discipline or to acquire knowledge in a new area. This concept of distance education is a welcome step towards promoting adult literacy rate. However, correspondence courses should not be confined to preparing students for acquiring university degrees but should also provide education in agriculture, industrial trades and other special courses as would help them to increase production. Provision should be made for libraries in rural areas and for large scale book production at subsidized rates.
A child’s primary education begins at home in the lap of the mother. However, it is sad that in our country female education has not been paid attention it deserves. It has to be realized that women plays a vital role in creating a congenial environment for her family which is conducive to the all round development of the children. Female literacy has, therefore, to be given its due place. The government has realized the importance of this and is trying to take steps to educate women. Gandhiji rightly said that if the mother is educated, the entire family is educated.
Government has formulated a comprehensive programme known as National Literacy Mission (NLM) in the field of adult education. This aims at imparting functional literacy to 8 crores illiterates in 15-35 age groups by 1995. There are 513 projects under Rural Functional Literacy projects of Central schemes besides 852 projects under State programs. About 628 voluntary agencies are also playing an important role in this regard. About 6.5 lakhs students are also participating in adult literacy programs. Programs for complete eradication of illiteracy have been taken up in various states. Kerala has taken the lead in the promotion of adult education programme.
Heroic attempts have been made to banish illiteracy, but with no significant results. Slogans like ‘Each one, teach one’ were coined, but were difficult to implement without public cooperation. The Education Commission had recommended a programme of compulsory national service to promote adult education. College teachers and students were required to make a sort of compulsory social service by spreading literacy during the summer vacation. Entrants to government services were required to make four or five persons literate. But compulsion like these cannot yield the same results as voluntary efforts. On the other hand, students who were not interested in making any personal contribution to this scheme started buying bogus certificates from the village officials.
Spreading literacy among the adults is not an easy task. They lack the drive, motivation and incentives which spur the young to learn. In order to sustain their interest and encourage them to enroll for these programs it is absolutely necessary to give consideration to their interests, timings, etc. Mere teaching of alphabets and arithmetic to the adults is awfully boring. They should be given lectures on what is called socially relevant issues like hygiene, health, general welfare, basic reading and writing skills, crafts, etc. Audio-visual aids should be used. They should be shown film on subjects who interest them. These steps will certainly kindle interest and make their lives happier, richer and healthier. Further for this new class of literates, new types of books will be required. Village library facilities will have to increase. They should be manned by trained library personnel to help and guide the adult students.
There is a need to open night schools especially for low income groups in industrial areas, where workers can resume their education despite being busy. Such steps are bound to produce results. Community television sets should be provided so that workers can get together in the evening and watch the national programs. These will help them to keep themselves up to date on the happenings in the political, social and economic front in the nation.
If we are serious about removing adult illiteracy from our country then it is high time the government machinery and voluntary agencies gear themselves to launch massive literacy drives all over the country. It is a stupendous task, yet not difficult to achieve. If the country has to carry on its march towards progress, then it has to ensure that its ambitious hundred per cent literacy drive meets with success. What other countries have done, India can also achieve. It is a long road, but we must traverse it.
– Bipasha Mukherjee.