International Literacy Day falls on September 8 every year and this day is observed across the world. This day is observed to create awareness about the importance of education for people and how it will help people, communities and society in general.
Literacy is defined as 'a person aged seven and above who can both read and write with an understanding of a language'.
The theme for International Literacy Day 2019, is 'Literacy and Multilingualism' and this is a very relevant theme for India since every state of in the country speaks a different language. According to reports, India's adult literacy rate stands at 74-75 per cent, well below the average 86 per cent across the globe.
This prompts the question, what happened to all the schemes, including the central government's 'Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao' campaign?
In 2015, the overall literacy rate was 71.96 per cent and there is a significant improvement in three years, more can still be done.
According to a report by Seruds India, there are still 35 million children in urban places in the country who still do not go to school even though the Right to Education Act makes it mandatory for children up to the age of 14 to attend school.
One of the main causes for this is the exorbitant school fees, which many children cannot afford. Statistics show that 80 to 90 million children depend on external financial assistance such as loans and scholarships in order to pay school fees.
These pose as deterrents to education at an age when should be accessible to all. The next question which will be posed here is how we can make education accessible and this can by implementing a positive agenda and conversation around education. Drives to talk about the importance of education can be implemented. Schools can waive fees for students from economically backward families. In addition to this, the government can also start nation-wide initiatives with volunteers from schools and colleges involved in teaching.
While these are just some of the points, there are a lot more, which can be done to make schools as attractive as possible. One method was the Mid-day meals where students are given lunch at school every day and parents will be at a peace of mind that the children will be ensured of at least one meal in a day.
However, the mid-day meal scheme has been criticised multiple times because of how the food has been handled. A few years earlier, news emerged that vegetables and fruits were washed in restrooms, which poses a threat for harmful diseases. In another case, a dead lizard was found in the meals of a school in Karnataka, which lead to all the students being hospitalised for food poisoning. The most recent incident was when children were served roti with salt at a school in Uttar Pradesh.
It is high time that the government (both central and state) take stock of the situation and implement more initiatives, which will attract children to education and parents to put their children in school.