Illiteracy is still very much rampant in India. Children empowerment being their major cause, Make A Difference (MAD) has turned around the lives of many children with the tool of ‘English’...

The world literacy day (September 8) passed us by. And yet millions of children are still illiterate in India. Make A Difference (MAD), a non-profit child empowerment organisation, has taken up this cause and is working towards making children literate in 23 cities in the country. Their ‘English Project’ accommodates volunteers who teach English to children at orphanages, street shelters and poor homes.

One such initiative is the SIGA Don Bosco Polytechnic College at Kilpauk. Started last year, the students of this college have been aatending English classes over the weekend with MAD volunteers. A majority of these students started college fresh out of Tamil-medium schools, and hence faced a lot of hardship when they had to deal with English in the college curriculum.

Here are what some of the students said...

Robert from Vellore feels that learning English is a luxury for him. “All of us here come from different backgrounds,” says he. “I realised the importance of English once I enrolled in this programme. In the past year, my speaking and reading skills have progressed so much.” Robert plays the keyboard and wants to become a designer and musician. “I want to learn here and teach it to others.”

Naveen, like other students, wrote the basic test and when selected for the English classes, got interested in it more. Hailing from Chidambaram, Naveen goes for a part-time job as well. “There will be singing, dancing, games and other fun activities that make learning English more appealing,” he says.

C. Sujin from Kulasekharam (Nagercoil) however faced a different problem. “In school, we were scared into studying English without really understanding,” he reflects. “We didn’t have capable and efficient teachers to teach us the language.” Now that he is being properly trained, he feels that his confidence has improved marginally. “I understand when someone speaks English now, even if I am not able to answer back,” he says. Sujin believes that he has a better chance of becoming a successful designer now.

Dharmaraj started reading Pursuit of Happyness after joining the programme. A native of Vaniyampadi, Vellore, his tryst with the English language was limited. However, once he started learning the language he couldn’t help but like it. “I love English now,” he grins. His passion to learn more is apparent when he talks. “The grammar, vocabulary and other intricacies of the language interest me the most.” Aiming to become a packaging designer, Dharmaraj has big plans for his future.

Pushing illiteracy backwards

Partnering with Aarush’13, SRM University’s techno management fest, Make A Difference, conducted a Back-a-thon on September 8 (World Literacy Day). Around 300 youngsters turned up for the cause of pushing illiteracy backwards, literally. Walking backwards, these youngsters comprising MAD volunteers and college students raised slogans and held banners to emphasise the problem of illiteracy in the nation. Back-a-thon took place simultaneously in 20 other cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and Mangalore.

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