Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mizoram’s flawed literacy campaign


 By Paritosh Chakma

On 3 December 2010, Mizoram’s Education Minister Mr Lalsawta launched a special campaign called "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign" (RATLC) with the aim of achieving cent percent literacy in the state. However, the motives of the government are highly questionable as the RALTC seeks to achieve total literacy before the completion of the 2011 Census in March 2011 - that is, within three or four months!

In October 2006, Mizoram’s then Education Minister R. Lalthangliana informed the State Assembly that the state achieved 90.27% literacy, up from 88.8% recorded in 2001 census.In terms of literacy, Mizoram may be the second highest (next to Kerala). But Mizoram has its unique problems with the minority communities so much so that it can be safely stated that it is because of the high incidence of illiteracy among the minority communities that Mizoram cannot achieve the No. 1 rank. 

Just take the case of the Chakmas. With over 8% of the total population of Mizoram the Chakmas are the largest minority group. But only 45.3% Chakmas are literate, as per 2001 census figures which also confirmed that Chakmas are the “most illiterate” community in the state. This is against Mizos’ commendable 95.6% literacy rate. Although the literacy rate of the Brus (also known as Reangs) is not known (not recorded), it is popularly believed that the Brus are far behind to Chakmas in terms of development and education. This itself should be enough to indict the state government of Mizoram for not taking enough care of its minorities. 

The official data made public at the launching of RATLC in Lunglei show that there are 12,129 illiterate people in Lawngtlai district followed by 4,200 in Lunglei district and 2,845 in Mamit district. All these three districts (Lawngtlai, Lunglei and Mamit) have substantial population of minorities like Chakma, Bru, Lai, etc. The largest minority group, the Chakma, lives only in these three districts. This clearly proves that the minorities in particular the Chakmas and the Brus have been highly neglected by the state government in terms of education. Now, consider the repatriation, in the immediate future, of over 30,000 Mizoram Brus from the Tripura relief camps who have been denied development and education for the last 13 years. Hence, an army of illiterate minorities will be a bigger challenge which the Mizoram government must be prepared to meet in near future. 

The Mizoram government needs to really shift its focus on the minorities. But by seeking to make Mizoram 100% literate state in three or four months (notably before the completion of the Census 2011) through "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign", Mizoram government is sending a wrong signal to the whole world. This is nothing but taking a short cut method to improve its rating at the census and the goals are not genuine. But  education is not “fast food” and such a flawed policy is sure to boomerang in the long run. 

2 comments:

Maraland said...

Well, the message you're trying to convey is a little different from the intention of the state government this time around. The drive is to let everyone to be able to read and write in the language they are comfortable with perhaps. This is different from getting quality education, degrees and higher educational qualifications. Therefore, this drive must be commended for they want everyone to be able to read and write.

Of course, the Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura may not be educated but I'm sure many of them will be able to read and write which is very important. Once they are settled in Mizoram, their children should be given an opportunity to study freely like the rest of the citizens of Mizoram.

However, I do not mean that the state government should not give proper education to minorities and let them give teach how to read and write only, I believe they should do better to improve the education system among the minorities too.

I hope you can take things positively and at the same time continue to fight for the minorities when you feel and came to realize that they have been deprived of their rights. If you see from a different point of view, you may agree that this is a good initiative from the state government. But of course, it is not everything...

All the best.

Paritosh Chakma said...

@ Maraland: No, I am not talking here about “getting quality education, degrees and higher educational qualifications” but about basic “literacy”. Is it practically possible to achieve 100% literacy in the entire state within three months what we could not do for decades? And, why before Census 2011? Can’t the state government set a proper time frame?
The only intention of the state government of Mizoram is “to improve its rating at the census”.
As admitted by the government, the minority concentrated districts – Lawngtlai, Lunglei and Mamit are the highest in terms of number of illiterate persons. Why is this so? Did the government ever try to find out the reasons?

If you are talking about education, then let me say this that, till today 72% of the Chakma villages still do not have Middle Schools and 96% Chakma villages are without High Schools in Mizoram (Lawngtlai, Mamit and Lunglei districts).