Government says it will achieve total literacy in two yearsThis is the third time the government has made this announcement, and experts say setting targets without proper evaluation won’t yield results.
As the country prepares to mark World Literacy Day, the government has once again committed to eliminating illiteracy within two years. It announced that all the districts will achieve total literacy by the end of the next fiscal year.
While the new commitment is laudable, results of similar pronouncements twice before from previous years have been less than promising. Experts are doubtful outcomes will match the announcement at this go too.
In the fiscal year 2008-09, an ambitious National Literacy Campaign was launched allocating Rs 1.04 billion to take the campaign to the doorstep of all the adult illiterates (15-60 years) of the country. The government allocated an equal amount next year. The total literacy, however, was not met.
The government in the fiscal year 2012/13 conducted a door-to-door survey across the country to find out the exact number of illiterates in the country prior to relaunching the total literacy programme rebranded as the Literate Nepal Campaign the same year. The campaign aimed to make the 4,054,649 adults—the number of illiterates according to the survey—able to read and write by the end of the fiscal year 2015/16.
A total of Rs 2.68 billion was allocated for three years. The targets were once again not met. Yardsticks, however, began to change to total literate local bodies and districts. Total literacy would be achieved when a district as a whole hit at least 95 percent literacy.
Against the target of making 75 districts totally literate, even with the new metric, only 22 districts could achieve the goal by the end of the fiscal year 2015/16.
The current announcement faces considerable challenges despite recent progress. Officials at the Ministry of Education say 51 districts have already been declared fully literate. This means turning the corner for 26 more districts in the next two years—19 this year and seven more the following year.
“The federal government together with the local and provincial governments will attain the goal in two years. The collaboration of the three tiers of governments will make it happen this time,” Babu Ram Poudel, director general at Centre for Education and Human Resource Development under the Ministry of Education, told the press on Monday.
Among the districts that have not attained total literacy includes Mahottari, the home district of incumbent Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel and Siraha, home to former Minister for Education Chitra Lekha Yadav.
According to the government data, around 4 million people have benefited from literacy classes since 2008. And now there are only around 102,101 illiterate people between the age of 15 to 60 who are going to be targeted in the latest campaign. Separate literacy classes will be conducted at the ward level to accommodate the remaining illiterates, according to Geha Nath Gautam, director at the centre, who is in charge of the literacy department.
Over Rs 11 billion has been spent in the name of literacy in one decade since the campaign began. And more has been allocated for the latest campaign.
Fully aware of past results, education experts are highly doubtful the latest targets will be achieved within the announced timeframe. They also question the authenticity of the government data.
One who gets enrolled in the literacy classes is announced as literate without any evaluation, according to Binay Kusiyat, professor at Tribhuvan University, who has conducted research in education.
“Literacy must bring changes in the lifestyle,” said Kusiyat. “The government must connect literacy to the income generation to ensure lifelong learning.”