National Education Day- Towards eradication of illiteracy

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By: M Ahmad

National Education Day is celebrated in the honour of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister of independent India. Azad was born on November 11, 1888.  On September 11, 2008 Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) decided to celebrate November 11 as National Education Day annually.

A steadfast believer in the power of quality education, Kalam helped established the University Grants Commission (UGC) on December 28, 1953. As education minister, he is credited with the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). Other institutions that have been named in the honor of this great man are Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi, Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology in Kolkata, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology in Bhopal, Maulana Azad Centre for Elementary and Social Education, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, A Central (Minority) University in New Delhi, Maulana Azad library in the Aligarh Muslim University besides other numerous such establishments.

Many cultural and literary academies were also established under Azad’s tenure like Sahitya Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, Sangeet Natak Academy, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, etc. MHRD also gives the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad National Fellowship in the form of financial assistance to students from minority communities to pursue M Phil and PhD. He was referred to as Mir-i-Karawan by Jawaharlal Nehru because of his intellectual skills and outstanding personality. He was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1992.

Education is the reflection of our character. It beautifies and glorifies a nation and is the backbone of a nation. On the contrary, illiteracy is a curse and is one of the most serious problems for a country. If the maximum people are educated, the country will develop into a good nation. So, education for all is the crying need for the economic development of a country. Actually, a country can make no progress until its people become literate up to a satisfactory rate. A country may have many skyscrapers and monuments but it does not mean that the country is well established. That means illiteracy is a curse. It makes all development efforts impossible. A country can not develop if illiteracy prevails in it. It prevents the cultural growth of a country.

Illiteracy is poisonous for the development of any country. It can result in other bigger issues like unemployment, population burst, poverty, etc. It is one of the main issues India has had to deal with since independence. Because of literacy’s impact on human development and especially on women’s empowerment and child health and development, the adult literacy target should also be 100%, which would secure illiteracy as an eradication goal. For any country to have a productive Human capital it is important that the people there are educated and literate. Lack of education is the reason that poverty exists. The crimes increase when people do not have a living and also a sense of rational thinking. The illiteracy rate of women is much higher than men because there are still people who do not believe in educating their girls. In 1964 UNESCO published the Declaration on Eradication of Illiteracy, which called for “a worldwide movement for the eradication of mass illiteracy in the one and indivisible cause of human progress and fulfilment, so that through their united efforts this vital task may be achieved in the shortest possible time.”

Reasons for Illiteracy:

Less-educated parents: Wherever parents are not so educated, this also leads to a lack of knowledge of the importance of education in life. This results in them not educating their children as well.

Lack of Infrastructure: The educational infrastructure is still not developed in the way it should have been after so many years of Independence. Due to this, there are still a lot of people in our country who are not able to access some education. The government must reach out to the most vulnerable sections of society.

Poverty: This is both a cause and effect of Illiteracy. There are still millions of people in India who do not have access to proper food, home, and clothes. They can’t afford to even send their children to schools and are therefore forced to put them to work in farming activities or any other form of work they have been in.

Population: The rapid increase in population is also a huge factor that also plays a role in the increasing rate of Illiteracy in our country. The resources are fewer and the users consuming them are in great numbers. The poor people think that if they will have more children then they can send their children to work and that way they will earn more wages and so instead of educating them they force them to work.

Corruption: Red-tapism and corruption have played a huge role in leading us to this condition. The funds that are provided for the betterment of education are often misled or misused and are used for filling the pockets of their own officials.

Gender biases: Gender biases are still a very serious issue that exists in our society. They believe that the education of girls is not so important as they will not serve them after getting married and so they only send their boys to school and provide them education instead of girls further leading to an imbalance in the education ratio between girls and boys.

Solutions to eradicate Illiteracy:

Free education: The provision of free education in schools and universities by the government can go a long way in helping to reduce illiteracy in India. Many people fail to acquire education due to a lack of money and not everybody is capable of taking loans.

Awareness: Spreading awareness about the importance of education is needed as many people do not realize this and how it can change their life to a large extent. All kinds of government and private organizations should try to create this awareness among the people and thus reduce the number of people who cannot read and write.

Grants: Offering scholarships and zero-interest loans to students studying in schools and colleges will help them in focusing on their studies rather than thinking about paying fees all the time and will also encourage the parents to provide their children with education.

Digitization: Today we all live in the age of technology and information, the internet is available to everyone today. Institutions and educational organizations should try to create more digital platforms to teach children of all classes and especially try to reach those who live in rural areas and cannot afford to come to a city to acquire an education.

Sponsor Education: A way to eradicate illiteracy is by making resources available to the underprivileged and destitute children. This helps them in choosing the right direction from the earliest, hence not getting trapped in the ferocious sequence of illiteracy. We can support education of at least one disadvantaged child by enrolling them in proper schools for primary education.

Donate in Kind: It is not always feasible to donate in monetary units, especially for young adults who want to bring about change. We can always help in fighting social evils like illiteracy by contributing in kind. We should instil the habit of donating old books, rather than throwing them in trash bins, or giving them out to kabadiwalas. Remember that books are reserves of great knowledge. We can donate books and other stationery items at a literacy charity to be used by the poor and needy free of cost.

Volunteer: We can volunteer for organizations that are operating to eradicate illiteracy. It is always good to advocate for social causes and support people and institutes who are fighting for equal access of resources and opportunities.

Steps taken by the Government to increase enrolment in schools:

  • The government conducts various scholarship examinations and provides school uniform, textbooks and stationery in order to encourage students and adults to take up studying.
  • The Mid-Day Meal Scheme was launched by the government in 1995 to provide students free food grain so as to improve enrolment, attendance, and retention in government schools.
  • Samagra Shiksha Programme was launched by the government with the broader goal of improving school effectiveness. This will be measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes.
  • Awareness campaigns were launched in rural areas to create awareness among people about the importance of education. They were encouraged to attend or send their children to schools.

There are other various steps taken by the government to reduce illiteracy in India. In 1993, the Right to Education was incorporated in the Constitution. According to this, children have a fundamental right to free education. But the Right to Education still needs to be extended so that we reach not only the children but also include the adult population of the country. There are other policies and NGOs that focus on making the children and adults literate. “Teach India” is one such initiative. Its objective is to give a platform where the educated people can teach the unprivileged children.

Finally, for a country to develop and prosper it is really important that its people are educated well enough to contribute to the welfare of the society. The introductions of policies alone will not work but what is important is their execution and effectiveness. There is a lack of awareness among the people of India and it needs to be addressed. It is high time that our education is given importance more than anything else and reaches the remote areas as well as the big cities equally and adequately.

(M Ahmad is a regular writer for this newspaper and can be reached at [email protected])

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