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Children’s holiday homework: teach mom

Taught by their children, 50,000 unlettered women to take open school exam in March

Sangareddy, a newly carved district in Telangana State, is about to witness a dramatic jump in the female literacy rate.

About 45,000 school kids spent their summer vacation this year teaching their unlettered mothers how to read and write the Telugu alphabet. The children, studying in classes VII to X, took the ‘classes’ in their own homes.

The primary vehicle for addressing adult female illiteracy in the district is the Saakshar Bharat Mission (SBM), which aims to impart functional literacy and numeracy to non-literates. But unhappy with the slow progress under the Mission, the District Collector Manicka Raj Kannan decided to try something new: roping in school children to teach their mothers at home.

“Just before the summer vacation, we developed a program called ‘Ammaku Akshara Mala’ (String of Alphabets for the Mother). It is a 15-day module to teach women four letters of the Telugu alphabets every day. We visited schools and told the students that their vacation assignment is to teach their mothers at home,” Mr. Kannan said.

Worksheets given

The children were given work sheets with four alphabets printed on them, one for each day. The kids relished the idea of turning into teachers for a little while every day, when their mothers were done with their household chores.

This ‘assignment’ will be repeated during the forthcoming Dussehra vacation too. About 50,000 of these women will appear for the National Institute of Open Schooling exam to be held in March under the SBM.

Sangareddy has about 1.8 lakh women who are part of self-help groups (SHGs) and regularly avail of micro-loans given to the groups. But about 1.2 lakh of the women in SHGs can’t read and write. The district’s female literacy rate is only 57.9 per cent, while its overall literacy rate is 66.54 per cent.

Once the 15-day modules to teach the alphabet were ready, volunteers from the Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP), a community-driven rural poverty reduction scheme, were assigned to deliver these work sheets to the SHG women in their homes.

SBM has two volunteers stationed in each village but the women had to go to a designated place to learn. Not many could take the time out every day.

“We overcame these problems by asking the IKP volunteers to give the work sheets to SHG members,” Mr. Kannan said.

The major barrier is the tendency to equate education with a job. “Our effort is to change this mindset. We repeatedly tell them that the ability to read and write makes their lives easier, helps them move about independently, fill and sign challans at the panchayat, and most importantly, to read the text messages from banks on their cell phones, now that the big thrust is on digital transactions,” Mr. Kannan said.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 3:35:20 AM |

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