In our country illiteracy is by far the most serious problem. It continues to exist on an appalling scale. It is a social evil and it is the root of ignorance, superstition, backwardness, disunity and what not. It prevents the people from marching ahead to set up an ideal social fabric. But unfortunately, India is a country where 70% of the population is deprived of minimum education. When such a vast section of our people remains ignorant, democracy becomes a meaningless mockery. Education makes a man conscious of his rights and duties in society. It is the spirit that helps him to get rid of the foolish customs and superstitions. Illiterate people are exploited by toil and tears by the opportunists through ages. We only tinker with the problem instead of tackling it thoroughly. At present, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has started for all in India.
The States have ambitious programmes of setting up primary schools in every village, but these are yet in the cold shade of neglect. The plain directive of our Constitution is to make education free and compulsory at least up to the age of fourteen. But now it is free only at the primary stage and it has not yet been taken as a compulsory measure. The result is that most of the children, especially in rural areas, are the drop-outs, and laps back into ignorance. Recently a scheme of having a network of selling more primary schools and ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)’ has been drawn up. Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee introduced the program. The goal is to educate all children between the ages of 6 to 14 by 2010. Provisions for financing the scheme have also been taken into force. If implemented, it will be the first step towards a nationwide programme of the fight against the curse of illiteracy. The district of Ernakulam of Kerala has achieved 100% literacy through combined efforts of the public and the government.
It is the duty of every government to eradicate illiteracy from the grassroots levels. But at the same time, we must admit that the government alone will not be able to cope with the situation. Hence it is the duty of every educated citizen to render help in this matter. We, the students, should come forward with voluntary service to enable the illiterates to read and write and become acquainted with what is happening in the country and outside it. Students can do it easily by joining the literacy camp in their spare time and in vacations. They can hold night schools for the illiterate adults and give them lessons on the three (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic). Emphasis should be given on the womenfolk as well, as we know when we teach a man, we teach an individual and when we teach a woman, we teach a whole family. Involving students in this type of literacy campaign has some vital beneficial aspects.
First of all, students as volunteers shall have to undertake some elementary training as to how to spread literacy among the adult and the dropouts. Then they should arrange a camp under the guidance of village Panchayats. This ensures a direct association through work between the students and the village folk. Such an intimate mixing will lead to the free exchange of ideas. The process will certainly promote much-needed national integration. Above all, the students will have the satisfaction of helping their backward brethren.
We know that a major part of the huge expenses on the education of the students comes from the accumulated national dividend. So the students have a reciprocal duty to repay their debt to these toiling masses. In this way, literacy campaigns bring forth a double blessing. They help the students in widening their experience as well as stimulating their moral sense and sensibility. They also help those who receive the benefit by becoming literate. Thus the students have to play a dominant role to eradicate the deep-rooted problem of illiteracy to achieve a golden future of our motherland.