Literacy Enhancement

hild education is pivotal to future prosperity of any nation. The formative years, are the most crucial, when the foundation for physical, social, emotional, language development and life long learning habit are laid. Recognizing that early childhood development constitutes the foundation of human capital development - the role and significance of education, among children, in particular, cannot be bargained. Not surprisingly therefore, the great Indian Economist, Shri Amartya Sen has said – “you reap what you sow - and you don’t reap what you don’t sow!"

However, even after six decades of Independence, the Indian State like Orissa, Bihar and many others, continue to lag behind on socio - economic index. In terms of literacy, these few states lag behind many States of India and also rank below the national average. Within the State of Orissa, the Districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput (usually referred to as KBK Districts) figure dismally in respect of literacy - almost half or more of its population remaining illiterate. The female literacy, in particular, is extremely low ranging between 20 to 30%.

Smile Foundation, given its Mission, supports child - centric development intervention efforts (programmes) at the grassroots, focusing on child education. Since the last six years, it has been supporting a host of individual / groups, as well as NGOs initiatives on child education-pre-school and primary education, in order to bring less fortunate children in to the mainstream; besides trying to arrest dropout rate and helping weak children through remedial education. It has been supporting micro - initiatives and also helping them getting institutionalized and more organized - in the process bringing them on way to organizational framework and maturity besides enhancing eligibility of the organization for future initiatives.

Smile Foundation has initiated many innovative interventions to empower poor villagers (children, in particular) by increasing literacy among them with help and support of local infrastructure / organizational outfit. Such initiatives are proposed to be initiated across the country in a phased manner.

The Strategy

SMILE has been in process of extensive field works to analyze the existing situation in these backward areas in the past and has tried to ascertain availability of suitable, qualified persons residing therein the area and identifying among them, potential teachers (Volunteers or Social Entrepreneurs), willing to volunteer their services towards SMILE’s quest for making an effective campaign for empowering poor villagers (children in particular) through education. The Volunteers, naturally, will be those having faith in SMILE’s initiatives and the “cause” itself, besides being well meaning and oriented towards community welfare.

These Volunteers are entrusted with the responsibilities of identifying target children and adults, motivate them for learning, organize these learners in suitable groups (keeping in view their age, sex, knowledge level, spare time etc.) and impart learning.

The teaching methodology is usually informal, making it learner- friendly. Bringing poor children under the ambit of education, pre-school and primary, the volunteers also try to facilitate these children’s onward march and enrollment to some formal school. Teaching to children (4-10 years) focuses on preparing them for formal schooling in higher class(es), besides other aspects relating to inculcating desired manners, habits and practices and therefore it is both informal and formal in nature. The same, however, in case of older beneficiaries are of more informal type - focusing mainly on enabling them to read and write, do basic arithmetic required in day to day life, besides laying greater emphasis on awareness generations on various issues surrounding g general environs - social, political, economic - one is living in and has to handle. Girl child and adolescents (girls) are of equal focus under the literacy intervention. Periodicity of teachings, place, timings / duration etc. are worked out depending upon the local situation and convenience.

Necessary support in terms of teaching / learning materials is provided by the SMILE Foundation through the volunteers or Social Entrepreneurs.

The final selection of Volunteers is done in consultation with existing organizational outfits like Youth Clubs, Mahila Gosties, Women’s Groups and of course existing partners of Smile Foundation active in the village / area who may be invited to make a formal request to the foundation expressing their willingness to forge alliance. These grassroots organizations should have credibility in the area / among local community, being engaged in some active developmental work, as SMILE proposes to enter into partnerships with them. They are entrusted with the responsibility to supervise / monitor the activities of the volunteers, besides channeling and reaching resources received from SMILE to the point of service delivery / recipients.

This is just one formidable way of spreading literacy, and education in particular, among the underprivileged children and bringing socio-economic progress for the nation !