India is a democracy. Democracy depends upon informed participation of citizens in control and management of the affairs the nation. For informed participation it is essential that the citizens should be able to receive, perceive, interpret and share information. Audio reception of information would not help; because there could be such information, which should need juxtaposition with related information and with relevant documents as otherwise the same information may mislead. Newspapers and journals, which are important sources of information are usually available in print ad one must be able to read in order to receive information through the print media. Another important source of is the internet through which news portals are available. But again, to receive information through the news portals, one is to read. Indian constitution has made provisions for statutory audit of government expenditures so that the peoples can be informed of how the administration executes its responsibilities. The statutory audits are conducted by the Chief Accountant General and the reports thereof are placed before the Parliament and the respective Assemblies and then the citizenry is expected to watch the official actions on these reports. But to do this the audit reports and action taken reports are to be read. In order to help people receive whatever information they need to evaluate official action in depth, Right to Information Act has been framed and enforced in India. But to know as to which would be helpful information in this regards and to know as to what information emanates, one is to read. On the other hand, watching administration is not the whole thing in life of a person and in life of a nation. People must know the history of their land to understand how the society has evolved so that a better society may be built up. They are to read history. The same is in respect of tradition and culture and literature and Laws. The same is also applicable to areas of industry and agriculture, trade and commerce; cooperation and civil administration. So one is to read to rise to become a responsible citizen for making the country a better place to live in.
Illiterates cannot read. Therefore illiteracy needs to be eliminated. Schools have the most major and relevant role in this respect.
Despite planned approach to eliminate illiteracy, literacy has not grown as expected.
Orissa may be cited as an example.
An average of figures indicated by various agencies indicate that 70 per cent of Orissa’s Schedule caste and Schedule Tribe people constituting 43 percent of her population are illiterate. 30 percent of OBC that constitutes 50 percent of Orissa’s population is also illiterate.
Incentives like midday meals and free textbooks etc are failing to stop the flow of school dropouts.
WHY IT IS SO?
Unemployment and lack of the scope of employment of parents is the most major cause of children of school-going age not at all going to schools and dropping out of schools. The ever-increasing numbers of child labor is indicative of this.
In most of the cases, poor children act as babysitters in their huts at the behest of their parents who in search of daily wages acquiesce into drudgery or in search of food, rush into jungles leaving the tiny kids in the care of elder babies. This unavoidable babysitting pushes children of poor families into illiteracy in rural areas.
It is also remarkable that lack of confidence in children of poor families is also a factor of illiteracy. The poor children are often not encouraged to mingle with school children belonging to advantaged families. Thereby a sort of inferior feeling gets injected into their psyche and they fail to acquire courage to aspire for education. This negative trend also spreads illiteracy.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE TREND CONTINUES?
Unless this trend is stopped, Indian democracy will be in serious doldrums. As the children shaken by the feeling of inferiority would grow, the psychological gap between them and the advantages children will grow. India can never be a country of equals at least in feeling for the country. It would end up in class wars.
On the other hand, democracy will never get informed participation, as most of the major citizens, bereft of ability to read and receive and analyze information relating to nation building, shall limit their activities to casting their uninformed votes. So majority participation in Indian democracy would be unconcerned participation and that would never be good for the country’s health.
Educated people can manage their hearths and health by themselves without being dependants on the state on every occasion, which the illiterate people can’t. As the global scenario indicates, state role will be diminished in societal management. In that condition, educated people may overcome hurdles and manage themselves. Uneducated people will perish and consequently become the society’s worst detractions.
So, it is time, the advantaged people must address themselves to elimination of illiteracy and for availability of education to all.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
In this respect, Schools have the best role to play.
The Society should encourage the schools to educate their pupils to cultivate fellow feeling for the disadvantaged children.
Every student should be encouraged to adopt a poor child of his locality to literate him or her. As age factor would eliminate the communication gap between them, it would give a positive opportunity to educate the disadvantaged child.
Schools may make this essential role of a student a part of examinational incentives so that every student who makes a child of his locality literate would be rewarded with higher marks are certificates of excellence. What the mid day meals etc are unable to generate – in study aptitude – the students of the schools can do, even as they shall be, thereby, growing as responsible citizens, highly concerned for fellow beings of the society.
The schools, on the other hand, can press its faculty and library to help the environment of mutual trust and cooperation grow in the field of education.
Holidays and vacations may be best used for generation of contact between the school and the members of the society and a collective endeavor to make every body educated may be generated for all round development of all.
But would the planners and intellectuals interact and help how the process should be formulated?