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Billions spent on literacy drive but many fall through cracks




Bablu Ram and his wife Lalita at Gorkha Bazaar in a recent afternoon, both of them can’t read and write. Only five month remaining to conclude Total Literate Nepal Mission, the drive is yet to show in favor of many needy.

Thirty-year-old Bablu Ram was roaming Gorkha Bazaar in search of work one recent afternoon. When asked if he could read and write, he showed his right thumb in a gesture to signify that he is an ‘anguntha chhap’, which is local parlance for illiterate.

Bablu aspires for a better job than that of a cobbler, his ancestral occupation. However, with no literacy skill, he knows that he has little choice.

“What to do, just having citizenship and a passport is not enough. I cannot read and write,” said Bablu in a low voice.
Like many others from his locality, this youth of the Madhesi Dalit community in Saptari district had a dream of working in the Gulf and earning a lot of money. However, his stark illiteracy has let him down, says Bablu.

“My future is just like these torn-up shoes,” he said, venting his frustration over a livelihood that is faltering because of the declining number of customers. Rather than get their shoes repaired people now prefer to buy new ones, he said explaining why he sees only a few customers during his 12-hour days in the bazaar.

Bablu looked surprised when asked if he had heard about the government’s drive to make people like him literate. “I usually have to be here throughout the day and don’t know what happens in which government office,” he said, puncturing the government’s claim to have covered all those in the literacy target groups.

The literacy drive in Gorkha already concluded a few months ago as part of the government’s ambitious three-year Total Literate Nepal Mission. But neither Bablu nor his wife Lalita ever knew anything about this drive targeted at people between the ages of 15 and 60 years. Bablu claims that many of his friends are also unaware like himself.

DSC_3299 Gita BK
Far from Gorkha in Surkhet district, the urgency to be able to read and write increased manyfold for 26-year-old Gita BK, a mother of three who was displaced by the flooding last August.

Gita’s husband, who used to run a small hotel business in India, has hardly done anything to support the family since the last four months as he is undergoing treatment for lung infection.

Gita and her children now have to be dependent solely on the relief package they receive as flood victims.

“I could have started my own small business to bring up my children, but I cannot do the sums,” says Gita.

Surkhet concluded its literacy campaign a few months ago, but the people not reached by it are many. “Two of my sisters, who are living at another shelter, are also illiterate,” Gita said.

Altogether 58 districts have concluded the literacy drive, including seven districts which claim to have become totally literate achieving 95 percent of literacy rate. And only five months remain for the conclusion of the national drive to make the entire population in the 15-60 age group literate.

A total of Rs 2.6 billion has already been allocated to the campaign in the last three fiscal years. The government launched the Total Literate Nepal Mission in 2012 with an aim to make exactly 5,173,970 people in Nepal between 15-60 literate. the figure was based on a household survey carried out in fiscal year 2010/2011.

Meanwhile, Non Formal Education Center (NFEC) Director Baburam Poudel said the office responsible for implementing the campaign, say that it is on track toward achieving its target.

“Few persons might be missed in the campaign which should not be a problem in achieving the target,” Poudel said.

Published on 2015-01-17 06:57:58

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About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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