Government claim of dwindling illiteracy ‘misleading’: Experts

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Government claim of dwindling illiteracy ‘misleading’: Experts

Apr 3, 2015-

The government’s claim of having made substantial progress towards providing literacy opportunities to the entire population by the end of 2015 paints a rosy picture but is adrift of ground realities, educationists and lawmakers have said.

The ‘Literate Nepal Mission’, an ambitious plan endorsed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to meet the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating illiteracy by 2015 and which is the continuation of National Literacy Campaign, claims to have lifted 2,660,213 out of illiteracy since its initiation in the year 2012. Till date, seven districts, 11 municipalities and 758 VDCs have been declared as ‘fully literate’ by the government.   

The plan introduced in 2012 had aimed at making 1,380,000 people literate every year for three years with an investment of Rs 3.95 billion.

“While every other sector of the country is facing setbacks, literacy figures are surprisingly promising,” said Dharmendra Jha, former president of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). Jha was speaking at an interaction programme hosted by FNJ in collaboration with Non-formal Education Center, an MoE agency, in the capital on Friday. “I wonder how they come up with such statistics,” he said.

The government wants to achieve an adult literacy rate of 90 percent in the country by year-end and is launching intensive literacy campaign in 17 districts, 16 of them in the Tarai region. Data show there are more than 1.4 million illiterate people in those districts. The government defines literacy as the “basic knowledge on how to operate a mobile phone and a calculator, the ability to count to a hundred, fill bank vouchers and cheques and express personal views in public.”

“We have to re-examine to see if literacy is limited only in paper,” lawmaker Giriraj Mani Pokhrel said during the programme. Another lawmaker Lalbabu Yadav said, “The [three-month-long literacy campaign] scheme of the government is not effective enough. Bureaucrats have been cheating the state by producing positive but misleading results.” All of the speakers in the event highlighted the role of media in digging out the truth behind government claims and urged journalists to nudge political parties and the state towards commitment on minimising illiteracy in the county.

“The media should use its comprehensive presence in the country to disseminate different messages and create an environment for learning,” educationist Bidya Nath Koirala said. “Local governments and political parties should launch literacy programmes in the grassroots as well,” he added.

Lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna said that the surface-level literacy campaign is not enough in itself and needs long-term coordinated approaches to sustain the achievement.

All of the 17 lawmakers present at the programme signed a paper drafted by FNJ and expressed commitment to bring down the illiteracy rate in the country. The paper will be taken to more lawmakers to garner their commitment to the mission, according to FNJ President Mahendra Bista.

Published: 04-04-2015 08:54

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