Ram Kishore (name changed), a former eatery worker, is waiting anxiously to flaunt his new skills before his wife and parents when he goes home from Tihar jail next year after serving his term for robbery.
Kishore has acquired the skills of a class 3 student, being able to read 30 English or Hindi words in a minute, write 15 of them in 60 seconds, add or subtract numbers from zero to 1,000, and handle computers.
He’s one of 2,500 prisoners in Tihar identified as illiterate in a survey last April and introduced to the world of letters in one of the prison’s three-month teaching sessions conducted by instructors from the National Literacy Mission with the help of educated inmates.
With the likes of Kishore, Tihar has now achieved a rare feat for a facility of its kind — 100% literacy among inmates. “We have done this through our Padho Ya Padhao (Teach or Be Taught) project. When it began a year ago, there was around 40% illiteracy,” Tihar’s director general Neeraj Kumar told HT. “The project aims to reform criminals because an educated mind will reject crime,” he said.
After completing a literacy session, every inmate takes a test conducted and evaluated by officials from the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
“All 2,500 inmates who passed the test were given a certificate declaring him or her to possess the educational skills of a class 3 student,” said Tihar’s law officer Sunil Gupta.
The literacy project involved Tihar’s 10 sub-jails being turned into classrooms for two hours every morning and evening.
The ongoing project will focus on new challenges in the future. “About 175 new inmates arrive in the jail everyday. Of them, about 20% are illiterate,” the DG said.