‘Literacy’ is a BRIDGE from DESPAIR to HOPE…thus goes a wise man’s words. It also is an important indicator of development and status from a country’s perspective. It provides access to information necessary for growth. It also provides an account of the socio-economic condition of an individual and its family. On the other hand, illiteracy stands for ignorance, frustration and lack of aspiration. Literacy and education generate hope, aspiration and ability to move forward.

Whereas India has been an independent nation for last 66 years and considered a country of very deeply learned rishis, munis, kings etc..,since thousands of years. Whereas we shamelessly claim that everything the world discovers or invents in the current century has been with ‘BHARAT’ for thousands of years and that western people stole everything and now claiming as their babies. This story can go on and on.

Now, the reality check. What stopped the breed since last six odd decades to leave this country to be widely considered as a country with large sections of ILLITERATE people. Why should be LITERACY be a mission at all? Every one child born should have been a literate within 10 years of his/her birth, isn’t it? Everything said, the fact remains that this country too has a significant percentage of illiterates even if we discount the distorted data sheets of successive governments with “vested” interests. Adding insult to injury is the way “right to education has been incorporated into the fundamental right of a citizen that makes a person like me to ask “is the right NOT conferred by the constitution makers?”

Literacy stands for the ability to read and write with which the nation on the whole think that the country will prosper with healthy society where exploitation will be an dirty word. There is no doubt that literacy is a feature of human dignity. Even little education can be a genuine window to acquire knowledge for healthy living. During the last six and a half decades, the country has not become fully literate by itself, is not only discouraging but also display the degraded mindset of our own political class.

Looking at the gender composition, one can see that the female children are the more neglected lot; more so from the underprivileged section leaving one to wonder whether it was designed so to keep the tag of “weaker section” forever. When one looks at literacy percentage of these vulnerable sections, we get a very dismal picture. Then there are the semi-literates who have acquired some amount of competence in simple reading, writing and numeracy.

To be literate or to be educated means, it is supposed to contribute to the mental and moral development of the individual; but what we see in it these days is pathetic. There might be mental development but hardly there is moral development or refinement. What we get to experience in the society is a kind of unequal development of individuals and that can be directly attributed to lack of education in adequate measures. A literate society can make rapid development socio-economically and this need to be the motto of organisations involved in a literacy drive.

This set a premise for the well-meaning NGOs to enter the arena of education in its various forms. “Literacy” is one of the most important themes of Rotary International. So much so, the month of July is dedicated to Literacy projects. We know, that every club is doing its bit on this arena and Rotary is running many schools of its own in India too. In addition, there are volunteers who are parting with minimum education to the people by way of teaching the underprivileged, the handicapped children etc.

The new RI president has set one of his goals is total LITERACY by 2018. Good for a great man to identify the rot area and set the goal. But it is for the “infantry” battalion of the Rotary to make it happen. How much should not be question asked by us; rather “so much” is what we offer should be our motive and that so much should be your potential+. Let’s enjoy Rotary; let’s also define Rotary beyond just enjoyment.

There is no gain saying that the country on the whole has attained literacy unless it shows significant improvement in the lives of the people at large and society in particular.

Rtn. Madhu K. Nair

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