At a time when states such as Uttar Pradesh are busy renaming districts in the name of religious affinity, the state of Kerala has walked on an altogether new model of development by introducing its citizens to education through the State Literacy Mission.
Priyanka Yadav | The New Leam
It is quite often during my interactions with the elderly that I have observed that they have a sense of not being able to pursue what they wanted to. I have often come across narratives where most of the elderly live with a sense of regret regarding either not being able to study enough because of the lack of opportunities or having been pushed to take up a course that they were not inclined to.
Whenever I inquire about their reasons to leave their education midway, some say they left it because of familial responsibilities, marriage, lack of opportunities, financial issues etc. Often during these interactions I wish that there was a system to enable them to come back to their studies, to pursue a course that they always wanted to, to continue their education which they had left mid-way because of the factors that weren’t in their control. The empowerment of the elderly to carry on their education is a factor that surely needs to be looked after by the state.
I recall having seen the film Nil Battery Sannata (2015), which very beautifully portrayed the desire of a housemaid in her forties who wanted to carry on her education. The way that the society reacts to her desire to complete her secondary education, the ridicule that they see her with but her commitment to continue her education in spite of all the factors pulling her down is remarkable.
The Indian society has a very stringent prescriptive norm for people and especially for the women where the desire to study is often discouraged and conceived as a futile investment. The pressure to get employed, get married and start a family are so stressed upon that individuals are often compelled to leave aside their desires to get educated, to learn and settle for a course that assures them a decent job.
It is ironic that even when a person turns old and has successfully completed all his/her worldly a role, the society does not permit them the choice to live according to their desires. The expectations that we have attached with old age range from babysitting grandchildren in urban households where both the parents are working, devoting enough time to meditation and religious rituals, to settle for a life of suffering in an old age home or to simply remain silently dependent on their children.
The paradox of the matter is that when the person is young, the society does not allow them to pursue a career that they wish and even when they are old, the expectations of the society compel them to fit into its mould.
Old age is often considered as a time when a person is obliged to do nothing but wait for death.
The state of Kerala is known for its ability to come up with unique state run policies, to deliver social justice and to reach out to the maximum number of people whether we talk about its health schemes or its literacy programmes.
The story of Kerala is inspiring because the state has the highest literacy and is evidently so keen to keep up its high rates of learning that one of the first priorities of the state even after the devastating floods was to rebuild its libraries.
We often talk about the development of external infrastructures that most states prioritise post a national calamity but Kerala has given great importance to strengthening its educational basis. The state of Kerala has once again out performed its contemporaries by initiating the Kerala State Literacy Program.
The literacy program is managed and administered by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSMLA) with a vision to not only ensure numerical and alphabetic literacy but also social literacy. The Kerala State Literacy Mission launched the continuing education endeavour on 26th October, 1998 with the the slogan “Education for all and Education forever”.
Six years after it bagged the envious title of total literacy, the KSLMA is fully funded by the Government of Kerala in order to implement literacy, continuing education and lifelong learning programme designed and developed by the state.
The District Literacy Missions are looking after the activities at the district level. The Continuing Education Centres functions under the Local Self Government Institutions, it is spread across the state with service delivery units and literacy parks.
Recently, the state held a literacy test in which almost 60,000 candidates appeared, this literacy test was held to map out the number of literates and illiterates in the state.
In the test, a 92 year old woman had secured 98 marks out of a hundred with the help of the literacy program. Classes under the literacy mission are held in public spaces, government buildings, Aanganwadi centres etc, and the medium of instruction is Malayalam.
Currently under the Literacy Mission, the state runs seven programs namely Aksharasagaram, Aksharalaksham, Samanvay, tribal Literacy programme in Wayanad and Attappadi, Samagra, Nava Chethana and Chengathi. No wonder the states literacy rate has always been high.
The focus of the state government has been development with the individual at the core.
In times when states like Uttar Pradesh are functioning based on the politics of renaming districts and railway stations to ignite communal sensibilities, Kerala is a state that is setting an altogether new example.