Illiteracy to remain only in 39 districts
The country will see a remarkable achievement of attaining maximum literacy rate in almost half the districts by the end of the Nepali year. The government is all set to declare 36 districts as “total literate” after enrolling all the uneducated people above the age of 15 in three-month classes that have already commenced across the country. Last year, the government had initiated its 'Literate Nepal Mission' as per Nepal's global commitment to eliminate illiteracy by 2015 as envisioned in the Millennium Development Goal.
A door-to-door survey conducted by the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC), a government body that conducts such classes, showed there were 4,054,649 uneducated adults in 2012. Around 915,000 of them turned literate in the campaign conducted last year, leaving 1,769,310 male and 1,371,198 female unschooled in the country at present.
According to Deputy Director at NFEC Gopal Bhattarai, 1,693,165 people have been enrolled in around 2,200 classes this year. The government has allocated Rs 1 billion for the project, spending Rs 1,000 per person on an average. The government has set 12 indicators for literacy which include being able to read and write the letters of the national or mother language, write names of his/her family and own address, have the ability to use a basic calculator and mobile phone, fill up bank vouchers, cheques and have confidence to express oneself in public, along with reading the calendar. The NFEC data rate the current literacy status at 70 percent, with Nepal occupying the fourth position in the Saarc region after Maldives (96 percent), Sri Lanka (92.5 percent) and India (74.04 percent).
Fifty VDCs from seven districts and a municipality have been declared 100 percent adult literate by the Ministry of Education (MoE) till date. “The programme, having coordination from various sectors, is impressive,” said Bhattarai, adding the government has formed a coordination committee comprising representatives from nine ministries led by the National Planning Commission for the campaign. To ensure people's participation, the government is making it mandatory for people to be tutored in order to avail of the state's social security scheme or to lead school management committees.
Starting this year, the ministry has pushed for a mandatory participation of secondary-level students in adult literacy programmes. The government decided to mobilise students after the campaigns run by teachers did not yield desired results. The government has been carrying out the 'Literacy Campaign' for the past four years. As per the directives, students from grade nine or ten must contribute as part of their practicum or an optional subject.
Out of the 25 marks for practical skills in School Leaving Certificate examinations, 10 will be for their performance in the literacy campaign. The Curriculum Development Centre has formulated four options for their literacy practical classes--students can either directly teach in such classes or collect the data of illiterates from their surroundings. Students can also monitor ongoing classes and submit a report to their school under the supervision of District Education Offices. Students can also take charge of an individual illiterate person to make him/her able to read and write within three months. “We have made all possible efforts,” said NFEC Director Baburam Poudel, claiming that half the country will be educated in next three months.
Education experts, however, doubt that the mission will meet its target. The campaign failed to accomplish its goal in the last four years. Only 1.8 million benefited from the drive in 2009 against the target of 2.3 million, while only 1 million benefited in 2010 against the target of 1.2 million.
Likewise, the target of making 612,920 literate in 2011 was unmet too with only 580,000 people taking advantage and 914,000 being made able to read and write against the goal of 1.1 million. The government has spent Rs 4.24 billion for the literacy programme till date.
According to education expert Bidhya Nath Koirala, the programme has gained momentum since the government made slight changes to the “Literate Nepal Mission” last year. However, there are some lapses in the approach.
“It is difficult to make all the people literate unless local governments and political leadership cooperate,” said Koirala, urging authorities to realise that literacy rate is an indicator of development . He feels that motivating people by making them see its benefits is a challenge.
Five districts with highest number of illiterates
District Male Female Total
Mahottari 67,142 106,877 187,086
Sarlahi 72,683 108,285 180,968
Dhanusha 67,142 106,877 174,019
Rautahat 145,810 74,195 220,005
Siraha 55,369 75,036 130,405
Five districts with least number of illiterates
District Male Female Total
Manang 371 497 868
Mustang 843 710 1553
Lamjung 912 1083 1995
Tehrathum 921 893 1814
Jumla 81 3997 4,087
source:Ghimire,Binod(2014),"Illiteracy to remain only in 39 districts", the kathmandu post,11 March 2014