The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amidst the urgency of the happenings in Gujarat and Kashmir, the abysmal literacy rate — the root of all evils in the country — seems to have escaped people’s attention. Orissa has had an impressive record in adult education and literacy programmes. Adult education programmes in Orissa had their genesis in, and were the product of, the freedom movement. As in Vietnam, it ran parallel with the freedom movement.

Following Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who had said that adult education should neither begin nor end with the three Rs, Orissa’s leaders such as Gopabandhu Das, Malati Choudhury and Nabakrushna Choudhuri, were deeply involved in literacy and adult education programmes. They motivated people to change the course of history.

Adult education was given official status after independence. Education departments started work in this area. Adult education departments were established under directors of public instruction. Then came the five-year plans and community development programmes, with social education organizers holding educational activities in the project area. But few, including community development functionaries, understood the concept of social education.

Trained to serve

At the national level, training centres for social education organizers were established at Allahabad, Sriniketan, Calcutta and Gandhigram in Tamil Nadu. Social education was included in the training curricula of other community development functionaries.

A training centre for senior civil servants, the National Institute of Community Development, was set up in Mussorie. The Institute for Instruction on Community Development was opened in Dehra Dun to offer training courses on teaching methods and techniques. For the training of block development officers, extension officers and non-officials, orientation and study centres were established at Bhubaneswar, Kalyani and Mysore. The commissioner (training), from the ministry of community development and cooperation, oversaw all training programmes in the country.

Then came the panchayati raj amendment, which too worked in the area of adult education

The Central advisory board of education recommended the setting up of state resource centres for adult education under the auspices of voluntary organizations and universities. In Orissa, such a centre was established in 1978 at Angul under the auspices of the Utkal Navajeevan Mandal, a voluntary organization. Its primer, Janile Jiniba, monthly bulletin, Halchal, and wall newspaper, Tundabaida, were trend-setters.

Use the resources

At present, the centre operates from Bhubaneswar and is a registered society under the government of Orissa. It receives much more Central aid than it can spend. However, few educationists with successful track records in adult education are associated with it. The centre’s director has little experience in adult education and is unable to inspire his colleagues. Besides, several litigations involving the centre has led to the draining away of government money there.

In Orissa, total literacy campaigns have had some success in districts in which they are headed by dynamic district collectors. The TLC has now been replaced with the post-literacy campaign to execute continuing education programmes. A TLC/PLC has the funds to develop and publish culture, and location, specific teaching materials for its district. It is not bound to use the centre’s materials. This has given rise to an unhealthy competition between the centre and the TLC/PLC. The Union ministry of human resources development is to blame for this confusion.

No serious attempt has been made to utilize the media for the adult education programme. Orissa’s rich folk culture and heritage of music and dance have not been optimally utilized either. There is a very limited use of All India Radio and Doordarshan for adult education. No wonder, adult education functionaries are getting demoralized.

The Centre and state government should organize task forces to ensure that the situation improves. When the taxpayer’s money is being spent, he has every right to question how.

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