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NIRJANA SHARMA

LALITPUR, Feb 15

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She wished life could take U-turn for good since a long time. The day Kamala Deshar became able to write her name, she felt that she had the best medium to express identity.

At the age of 40, Kamala, a resident of Chapagaun, Lalitpur, learned to read and write basic words in both English and Nepali. 

It has been just a few months since she has been able to do simple addition and subtraction on her own, thanks to the literacy program being run by the government. 

“I can also write about my family, places and my experiences,” says Kamala, who lives with her nine family members, including her parents. 

Though she had performed Ihi, or bael biwah–a ritual in which young Newar girls are married to marmelos fruit before they attain puberty–Kamala chose not to marry in view of her family situation. 

Kamala Deshar showing her mathematic and English homework copy while Dar Kumari Shrestha is writing.  Apart from reading and writing, they have learned to use mobile and simple English words through the government run total literacy campaign. Lalitpur’s 13 VDCs and 18 ward of sub-metropolitan city have been declared total literate whereas total 59 VDCs and a municipality of 11 districts are total literate as declared by the government. Both have a desire to study up to secondary education if get more opportunity.

Photos- NIRJANA SHARMA

“All my siblings are settled with their families and I am satisfied to see them happy,” she added. There are many more sacrifices she had made for her younger brothers. She never went school just to make sure that her siblings were fed on time when their parents were out in the fields. 

“It always bothered me that I could not get education. Perhaps that explains my eagerness to learn so fast at the literacy class,” Kamala added, showing several of her notebooks with homework of English, Nepali and Mathematics subjects.

She has learnt to add, subtract, divide and multiply, which has made it her easier for her to deal with customers at the utensil shop the family runs at Chapagaun. 

Though her brothers showed her how to use a mobile phone several times, she never quite got the hang of it. However, the two-hour class that she attended for a month empowered her not only to use mobiles but also calculator.

Though the campaign was held here for three months, the women of her area came to know about it quite late–two months after it began. 
Dipesh Shrestha, the son of another participant of the campaign, had encouraged his mother to enroll in the program. “Dipesh used to say that it´s a matter of shame for him if I remained illiterate,” said Dar.

Dar´s master´s degree holder son would prepare the morning food to make sure that she would be free to attend the classes. 
Married off early, Dar came to Chapagaun from her maternal home in Satungal long ago, when sending daughters to school was not considered sensible. At that time, people spoke only in their mother tongue.

Though the government has prepared adult literacy textbooks in several mother languages, including Newari, the local women chose to learn Nepali as dealing with outsider was almost impossible because they did not know other language, said Dar. 

The women here say that three months literacy class is too short to learn what they wanted to learn. Kamala says that she would like to do secondary level education if the government brings such programs targeting women like her.

“To take care of the family business and farming side-by-side is tough for adults, so we expect the government to establish an informal school in the community so that they have enough time to study throughout the year,” Kamala suggested. 

While the Chapagaun women are relishing the sense of empowerment literacy has brought them, the government, too, is hopeful of achieving the literacy target by 2015. 
Introducing total literacy campaign, the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC) in March last year initiated a multi-billion rupees project aiming to make around four million people above 15 years age literate. 

According to NFEC data, as of now only 59 VDCs and a municipality are total literate. However, those who could not be covered during the literacy classes will be reached through the teach one-each one method, said the NFEC Deputy Director Bishnu Prasad Mishra.

Little success, more criticism in previous campaigns 

This is not the first time that the government has launched a literacy campaign to increase country´s literacy rate. 
The NFEC in previous years had to face criticisms for unreliable data on the literate people. Criticisms were scathing in 2009 when it was revealed that the total literate data showed by the agency´s for Achham exceeded the total population of the district. 

The office later changed the data saying that the fact came wrong during internal data entry.
The program could make only 1.8 million people literate in 2009. The achievement that year which was 500,000 less than the set target as the office had aimed to make 2.3 million people literate. 

The program funded by donor agencies aiming to meet the Millennium Development Goal by 2015 again missed its target in 2010 as just 1 million could be made literate though target was 1.2 million people. By then the government had already spent Rs 2.8 billion in three phases. 

All the initial claims of achievements toward meeting the literacy targets were rubbished by the census report on literacy. The census report revealed that only 11.8 percent people could be made literate between 2001 and 2011 though the government poured more than Rs 265 billion with an average amount of Rs 26.5 billion per year. The country´s literacy increased to just 65.8 percent from 54 percent in 2001.

However, with a do or die situation looming, the government has aggressively moved to achieve total literacy by 2015, said the Deputy Director Mishra. The Ministry of Education has also prepared a directive to mobilize school students for the campaign that is to be implemented shortly. The NFEC declares the particular unit total literate after it achieves 95 percent literacy. 

Who are considered literate in Nepal?

While launching the National Literacy Campaign the NFEC modified the criteria of an individual to be termed literate. As per the new criteria, an individual who is able to read and write in Nepali or own native language, basic ability to use mobile phone and calculator, able to count up to 100, confident to present personal view at public and proficient to fill bank vouchers and cheques, among others, are the indicator of being literate.

Places with total literacy
Palpa- Tansen Municipality
Lalitpur- 18 VDC, 18 wards of Sub Metropolitan City
Chitwan- 5 VDCs, 9 wards of municipality
Pyuthan- 10 VDCs, Sindhupalchok-12 VDCs
Makwanpur- 1 VDC, Kapilvastu- 6 VDCs
Dolakha- 5 VDC, Rupandehi 2 VDCs
Kalikot- 1 VDC, Ramechhap- 1 VDC

 
   
Published on 2014-02-16 05:52:51
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