KATHMANDU, June 23:The government declared Lalitpur as the first total literate district of the country with its literacy rate reaching 99.2 percent among the age group of 15 to 60 years amid a program on Monday.
However, the announcement based on literacy achievement in the age group between 15-60 contradicts the earlier announcement of Non Formal Education Center (NFEC), a governmental body, to cover all people above 15 years of age while launching the campaign in 2012 to be effective from January 2013.
Unveiling the ambitious campaign worth nearly 4 billion rupees, on October 14, 2012 the then Education Minister Dina Nath Sharma had said, “Illiteracy is the taint for the people like us living in the 21st century.
“Ministry of Education seeks support of each and every individual in this campaign to eradicate illiteracy from Nepal in next three years,” Sharma had told a press conference at Indreni Complex, New Baneshwar.
He had further claimed, “We will make all possible efforts to bring down illiteracy to zero in three years. Anyone who would find any illiterate after 2015 would deserve a prize.”
However, Sharma was unavailable for the comment on Monday. One respondent receiving his phone said that Sharma is in foreign visit and would return after 10 days.
With most of the youths going abroad for work, taking care of the elderly people has already become a major challenge. Neglecting those above the age of 60 in terms of literacy shows government´s apathy toward the ageing population, says educationist Mana Wagle.
“Let´s look at the local context where the number of elderly living alone is ever increasing,” Wagle adds. “It´s a missed opportunity to establish that the elderly would no more have to live as a burden if they receive informal skills.” Wagle also posted his opinion in social media stating that the declaration was made in a hurry.
“Declaring total literacy in the district would have been meaningful if 95 percent of the total adult population was literate,” he argues.
The average life expectancy of the country stands at 69. This also shows that the government has failed to integrate the life expectancy with literacy as well.
As the Millennium Development Goal sets the target to double the literacy rate between 2000 to 2015 for the UN member states, the government seems in a hurry to show its progress, he opines.
Chitwan District Education Officer Damodar Acharya told Republica over the phone that in his district, the terminology ´total literacy´ has been replaced by literacy only.
“We have declared our units just literate but not total literate,” says DEO Acahrya.
Chitwan is among the six major districts in the race to be declared total literate soon, as per NFEC´s claim.
In another evident of manipulation of fact, Palpa, which is going to be declared total literate on Wednesday, has achieved just 76 percent literacy of the total population above 15 years of age whereas the 15-60 age group is being highlighted as 99 percent literate.
Along with these three districts, Sindhupalchowk, Dhading and Manang are in line to declare themselves total literate.
Looking at the international practice, the official website of the government of Kerela, India states that Ernakulum district was declared first total literate district in 1990 following its 100 percent population coverage on literacy.
NFEC Deputy Director and Literacy Division chief Bishnu Prasad Mishra admits that the literacy campaign was made effective from 2014 eying total literacy, but the concept got vague and was re-determined in the mid way.
“We are announcing the district as total literate on the basis of Literacy Directive which mentions the adult education group as those who are aged between 15-60,” claims Mishra.
NFEC Director Baburam Poudel says that any age group of elderly is welcome to the literacy class if they wish to attain one. Similarly, the post 2015 campaign would focus on all the age groups, he adds.
But educationist Wagle insists that declaring total literacy to a district with thousands of illiterate people above the age of 60 is wrong.
“If the government´s target was 15-60 than we can say that the campaign was successful but total literacy is a wrong claim when thousands of people above the age of 60 remain illiterate,” he adds.
Source- Republica Daily
Govt move to declare Lalitpur as first total literate district courts controversy