"A child who reads will be an adult who thinks" - Sascha Salmina
287 Million Illiterate Adults in India. It’s not a pretty statistic and you may not think it’s your problem but here’s why we should all care about literacy and education here in Canada, over there in India and all the places in between.
The first step for the people of India to have social and economic prosperity is to solve the problems behind illiteracy. With the largest population of illiterate adults (by about 5 times – after China with 54 million) India is facing grave challenges that stem from the issues surrounding education and literacy. As we prepare to head to Gwalior to build our Tribe of Lambs library with our friends at Gramiksha, we can’t help but truly consider the impact this issue has on the people of India and abroad.
Let's look at the FACTS. The reasons behind Illiteracy in India...
Lack of proper school facilities, often without toilets, clean drinking water
“The study of 188 government-run primary schools in central and northern India revealed that 59% of the schools had no drinking water facility and 89% no toilets”(1)
Unqualified teaching staff
The average Pupil Teacher Ratio for All India is 42:1, implying teacher shortage and However, in states such as Jharkhand, Maydha Pradesh and West Bengal, the student-teacher ratio can be as high as 60:1. 2009 estimates suggest that around one third of primary teachers do not have the required minimum qualifications to ensure quality education at a time when engagement is crucial for children facing so many other pressures. “Free and compulsory” education may be a constitutional right today, but in India’s numerous villages and urban slums, children must make do with basic literacy lessons from barely qualified contractual teachers – known in India as “parateachers” (2)
India is home to 1.2 billion people, yet one out of every three girls growing up here will not finish primary school. Sexual violence remains a serious risk in India, even amongst children, and a lack of single-sex toilets is a key reason why many girls do not attend school. In Indian society, boys are prioritized over girls. It is a girl’s role to marry – sometimes as young as 10 – raise a family, and look after the home. Often, girls who do get to school face gender discrimination every day. Many boys and men think nothing of meting out verbal abuse on girls. (3)
Caste inequality, religious beliefs, income imbalance, rural/urban divide, technological barriers, geographical complications, non existent preschool programs and absolute poverty deter children and families from placing high value on education over basic necessities.
Sensing this paramount importance of education in the life of any citizen, the government of India passed ‘the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ in 2009. It professed that every Indian child aged between 6 and 14 years is entitled to free, quality schooling. But still India lags. Ethnic, religious, gendered, regional and social lines must be addressed before India’s long-time dream of education for all can become a reality. While many initiatives and programs have been introduced through government and NGO’s, there is still much work to be done for a prosperous future.
It is exciting for us to partner with an organization such as Gramiksha who are “building the India of their dreams” with their highest focus and efforts on equal education for all Indian children. They are the sole reason and inspiration behind our 4th Compassion Project – Lambs for Literacy!
The volunteers recognize that education is the route out of generational poverty; paving the way to better jobs, a better income, and a better way of life for their whole communities.
(1) Basu, Kaushik (29 November 2004). "Educating India". Source: Scribd.
(2) "Global campaign for education- more teachers needed". Source: UNICEF India.
For more information on Illiteracy in India please visit the following links;