Fidel Castro, the Cuban president who died recently, is also known for carrying out the world’s largest literacy campaign. In 1961, Castro asked his literate workers and school-going children to teach other citizens how to read and write. More than 10 lakh Cubans participated in this campaign and brought down Cuba’s illiteracy level from 38 percent to 3.9 percent in mere eight months.
Possibly taking a leaf from this campaign, Raghubar Das-led Jharkhand government has asked its school-going kids in rural areas to educate their illiterate parents and help his government abolish illiteracy from the regions mostly known for Naxalism and backwardness.
What followed is a lesson worth replicating in other parts of India. Hundreds of students from classes 8 to 10 showed interests in the campaign and began teaching their parents after returning from their schools. Seeing their kids putting efforts in this, parents also joined in to learn basic Maths and Hindi characters from someone from their own family.
Plus, unlike in the conventional literacy classes, elders do not feel uncomfortable in asking questions to their kids. “They may not be so comfortable if an outsider tries to teach them,” says Ranjan Mahato, a literacy worker from Angada block in Ranchi. Consequently, the new learning environment ensures that adults learn without hesitation or fear of public embarrassment.
In fact, the campaign is now succeeding so well that many children not only teach their family members but also educate other elders in their village. School education and literacy secretary Aradhana Patnaik tells to Hindustan Times that, besides addressing the illiteracy, the initiative also develops in students a healthy habit to take a lead for a social cause.
To take the campaign to its logical end, the state education department has scheduled a literacy exam in March 2017. Adults who pass the exam would be declared literates. Between 2001 and 2011, the literacy level in rural Jharkhand had risen by mere 16 percent. Experts then had attributed it to high illiteracy levels among those between the age group of 30-60 years.