International Literacy Day: Turning uneducated women into literacy champs
Sixty-year-old Shiv Kanti of Karouni village, on the outskirts of Lucknow, was an illiterate woman till a few years ago. She even did not send her children to school, engaging them in farm work instead, and was against the idea of her granddaughter attending school, which she thought was a waste of time.
But one evening life changed suddenly for her when she visited the chaupal –village women’s daily meeting for casual discussions – and saw that the place was deserted.
A villager told her that the other women were attending a literacy camp at a nearby location. Curiosity won over her and, covering her face, she reached the camp. On peeping inside through an open ‘window’, she was shocked to see her acquaintance, Savitiri, 55 -- who had also been an illiterate like her -- writing on a sheet of paper.
The ‘window’ proved to be the proverbial ‘window of opportunity’.
The next day, Shiv Kanti got herself enrolled in the camp. She was quick to learn the Hindi varnmala (alphabets) and other basics being taught at the camp.
“My parents made a big mistake by not sending me to school. I too never sent my children to school. It was a crime. And it would have been suicidal if we hadn’t sent our granddaughter to school, as well,” said Shiv Kanti, now armed with a better understanding of the importance of education.
Today, she not only supports her son and daughter-in-law in sending her granddaughter to the nearby primary school, but also helps the child in her studies. She has become a literacy champion who helps educate other village women.
“Given her age, nobody thought she could become literate by attending a six-month camp. But recently, she surprised everyone when the main trainer of the literacy camp did not turn up on time. She started taking the class! This is what literacy has done to her confidence level. She is a good performer,” said camp superviser Alpana Dixit while speaking about Shiv Kanti.
A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT
In a social experiment, a team from Global Dream (a voluntary organisation) trained and prepared 22 women volunteers of Karouni village in Sarojini Nagar area as literacy champions.
“A Global Dream Literacy Survey in Lucknow district helped identify people who could not read,” said Sunita Gandhi of Global Dream, a project of Target Plus Education and DEVI (Dignity, Education, Vision, International) Sansthan.
“It is an accelerated literacy programme and one of the most effective tools to propagate literacy in India,” said Gandhi.
The women volunteers, said Gandhi, didn’t have notable names or impressive titles. “But they have accomplished what many would have thought impossible –making nearly all the women in the village literate,” she said.
While Karouni does have a school, many people, especially women, did not attend it. “However, these determined women volunteers have been empowered and supported to set up ‘Dream Labs’ at their homes,” said Gandhi.
Mother of three, 33-year-old Usha Rawat, is another beneficiary of the programme. “I took three months to learn how to read and another three months to write. For a very long time, I only worked in the field with my husband. But after going to the literacy camp, my world has changed. I have also passed its examination. Now, instead of going to the field, I help my children in their studies once they come back from school,” she said.
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