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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

LITERACY DRIVE: Illiterate people's data rife with errors

Thousands are likely to remain illiterate in Nepal even after several rounds of the much-touted literacy drive, as there are glaring flaws in the details of the illiterate persons collected by District Education Offices (DEOs) across the country.

The lack of accurate details such as the names, addresses and ages of the illiterate persons are likely to play spoilsport on the Ministry of Education´s target of meeting the 100 per cent literacy by 2015.

“It is important to include all illiterate persons while collecting their details,” said education expert Dr Tirtha Khaniya. “Else, they will be left out the literacy campaign.” Dr Khaniya stresses the need of correcting the data of illiterate persons if the MoE wants to genuinely achieve the literacy target.

Glaring errors

The details of illiterate persons collected by the respective DEOs are not in tune with the national data. According to the national data, 15 percent of the total population is illiterate.

In the valley, where the total population is expected to have already reached four million, the data collected by DEOs puts the number of illiterate persons at 100,000, which even the MoE officials are unwilling to buy. “It is not in sync with the national data,” said an MoE official. “There must either be fault with the government´s national data or the recent districts-wise statistics.”

According to the DEO in Bhaktapur, only 27,249 persons -- 5,986 males and 21,263 females -- are illiterate in this district. “I am myself surprised to see how low the number of illiterate persons is,” said Sundar Shakya, District Education Officer of Bhaktapur. Shakya unequivocally admits that high school students -- who were mobilized across the country to collect literacy data --made mistakes.

“There were 41,000 households in Bhaktapur as per the 2001 census report. By 2011, the number of households might have obviously increased. But, while collecting literacy data, school students found out only 38,000 households,” Shakya said. “This makes it clear that many households, and illiterate persons, have been left out in the counting process.”

In Kathmandu, where the figures of only two villages, Mahakal and Kapan, and a few wards of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) are to be collected, only 46,957 persons -- 11,452 males and 35,543 females -- have been found illiterate. “We did not count those who live in rented rooms,” explains Durga Prasain, under secretary at Kathmandu DEO. “This is why the figure of illiterate persons is unbelievably low.”

The number of illiterate persons is surprisingly low -- 8,963 males and 22,501 females --in Lalitpur as well. Officials at Lalitpur DEO say students might have not counted many illiterate persons because of the difficulty in penetrating into the core part of the city. They even accuse the Non Formal Education Center (NFEC) of not providing a clear directive.

However, Bal Ram KC, director of the NFEC, says, “Our directive is clear. We have instructed all the DEOs to count each illiterate person, regardless of whether they live in their own homes or rented rooms.”
Serious Implications

The NFEC has already carried out two literacy drives in 2009 and 2010. However, the NFEC did not have an authentic data of illiterate people and this led to lapses. “Same people participated in literacy classes both years,” said Dr Khaniya, who is also a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC). “Therefore, we decided to collect the details of illiterate people before starting the 2011 literacy drive.”

According to the NNEC director KC, some 60 DEOs have already collected statistics of illiterate people. Once all the 75 DEOs finish collecting the details of illiterate persons, they will start literacy classes for at least three months.“Around 600,000 persons will be made literate this year,” KC said. “The names of those who become able to read and write this year will be struck off the list of illiterate persons. We will invite the remaining illiterate persons in the upcoming years. We have to make all of them literate by 2015.”

In this process, thousands of illiterate persons -- who have been left out of the counting -- will not be invited to participate in any of literacy classes in the future. However, the MoE may still claim to have achieved the 100 per cent literacy rate by making only those persons listed by the NFEC able to write letters.