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All hope is not lost

  • Literacy target can be met if govt pulls its socks up

DEC 11 -

Had the government’s National Literacy Campaign brought in targeted results, three-fourths of the total population would currently be literate. This achievement would have placed Nepal in good standing to meet the Millennium Development Goal of 100 percent literacy by 2015.

However, the failure of the campaign to meet targeted figures for four consecutive years has prompted the government to come up with a new programme, the ‘Literate Nepal Mission’, to effectively implement the literacy programme to meet targets as per Nepal’s global commitment. If everything goes as planned, the entire illiterate population above the age of 15 will be able to read and write within the next three years. A door-to-door survey conducted by the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC) showed that there are currently around four million illiterate adults are in the country.

The new campaign will begin implementation from January 14 next year. The new plan is aimed at making 1,380,000 people

literate every year for three

years with an investment of

Rs 3.95 billion. While the Ministry of Education (MoE) claimed that the literacy rate of the country currently stands at 70 percent, the recent national census put the figure at 65.9 percent. “Over one million people have become literate after the census was taken in July 2011,” claimed Bishu Prasad Mishra, deputy director at the NFEC.

After the failure of the old Literacy Campaign’s modality, the new initiative aims to mobilise all government mechanisms and encourages educated people to be part of the programme. All civil servants, teachers, police and army personnel will be given a fixed target to make everyone literate within the next three-year period. The multi-billion-rupee project will set up around 36,000 centres that will conduct literacy classes and mobilise 207,000 volunteers and 20,700 monitors across the country. “The government will make a call to all people very soon to cooperate in the Mission,” said Roj Nath Koirala, assistant spokesperson at the MoE.

The MoE has decided that school students will be part of the campaign where they will be assigned tasks as part of their school project work. Each student will be assigned one person to make literate, for which the former will be given grace marks, a certificate and cash incentives.

The ministry has also revised the criteria for someone to be called literate. A person will be deemed literate once they acquire basic knowledge on operating a mobile phone and a calculator, being able to count up to 100, express personal views in public and fill up bank vouchers and cheques.

The government is making it mandatory for people to be literate if they are to avail of state facilities and take part in public agencies like school management committees and consumer organisations.

However, experts opined that the government’s new plan will also go the way of the old campaign unless it takes poverty into account. “Literacy strategies will not function well unless they are aligned with a poverty reduction programme,” said education expert Bidhya Nath Koirala. “The new mission should discard all the shortcomings of the previous literacy programme.”

The multi-million-rupee donor-funded Literacy Campaign, which started in 2009, spent around Rs three billion without expected results. Only 1.8 million illiterate people benefited from the drive in 2009 against the target of 2.3 million, while only one million benefited in 2010 against the target of 1.2 million. Similarly, around 400,000 illiterate people became able to read and write in 2011 against the target of 612,920.

Experts also said that the new literacy drive will only be successful if literacy programmes are adapted to the needs of communities, taking their realities into account. Similarly, the monitoring of qualifications, remuneration of facilitators and

the quality of educational

materials should be taken in consideration. Additionally, commitment from all political parties is a must for effective results, claimed Koirala.

Fact sheet

•    Total adult illiterate population: 4,054,649

•    District with highest illiterate population: Sarlahi, 221,677

•    District with lowest illiterate population: Manang, 1,403

•    Total investment for the Literacy Mission: Rs 3.95 billion

•    Total centres for the Mission: 36,000

•    Total volunteers: 207,000

    (Source: Population and Household Survey 2011)

Posted on: 2012-12-11 08:21