India 2014: Literacy and its Challenges
Challenges India faces towards literacy
Literacy is one of the basic requirements to facilitate any economic development and progress. This can be well understood if we look at the literacy figures of any developed nation such as China, Japan, France, Germany and South Korea, which figures in the high 90s.
However, in India, our literacy rates (according to the 2011 census) are a meagre 74%, which is below the World Literacy Average of 84%; this amounts to 26% of our population above 7 years of age who cannot read and write. If we calculate, this percentage represents a few crores of people.
While the literacy figures have shown a 10% increase since 2001, there prevails an education inequality amongst the backward castes, tribes, male–female and rural–urban places. In the world, India has the highest illiterate population.
Many schools operating in poor pockets of the cities and small towns point out that Government programs like mid-day meals and free and compulsory education for all have helped in more enrollments. The work of non-governmental organizations such as ITC, Rotary Club and Lions Club towards promotion of literacy has been quite commendable. Primary and secondary school dropouts have been high because of many socio-economic hindrances that many parts of our country still face. Listed below are the major barriers to literacy in India:
Sanitation- Sanitation remains a major hindrance in urban slums where there is no proper drainage and drinking water. A lot of them leave school at an early age due to health issues. If you walk down any slum alley, you happen to come across open gutters running through settlements, which are breeding grounds for disease carriers and are foul smelling.
Dogmas- In lot of rural areas, having a girl child is like a curse born on the family. Even if girls are allowed to live, they are married off by 18. For many families deprived of any education throughout generations, getting a child educated makes no sense to them.
Infrastructure- If we look at the northeastern states such as Manipur or Meghalaya, the literacy rates are below 80%. A state like Jammu and Kashmir has a dismal 68% literacy rate. In such states, basic infrastructures like power and roads are not available yet in many areas. This kind of basic deprivation has become an obstacle in commuting to schools. Hence, they have been pushed into the darkness of illiteracy and poverty since decades.
Poverty- In 2013, the Indian government stated that 21.9% of its citizens live below the poverty line. This means that more than two and half crores of our citizens earn less than Rs.75 in a day. In that meagre amount, they have to sustain their families and themselves. Education continues to be a far-fetched dream for these people. Even people who fall under the lower income group, see getting their children educated as an unnecessary thing. For them, having a boy is an additional help in labour, with which they sustain themselves, while having a girl turns out to be a liability.
Migration- Due to the rural–urban disparity, there are many migrants who come from low-income regions to big cities. Their stay is often temporary or under harsh city conditions. Due to the translocating nature of their parents, children often have to discontinue their studies after a certain point. This is also one of the major complaints against primary and secondary drop-outs, which are cited by educational organizations.