Kerala - A Success Story
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In India, Kerala has the second highest literacy rate after Tripura, being 93.91%. In the 1980s, Kerala with all its coconut and palm trees had a literacy rate almost equal to The United States which had skyscrapers and well-developed industries. Isn't it remarkable?
Anthropologist Bill McKibben says "Though Kerala is mostly a land of paddy-covered plains, statistically Kerala stands out as the Mount Everest of social development; there's truly no place like it."
Here's what I found out about why the literacy rate is so high and how best it could serve to be a model for the other regions:
- The village schools started by Christian Missionaries paved the way for an Educational Revolution in Kerala by making education accessible to all, irrespective of caste or religion.
- Communities like Nairs, Ezhavas and Harijans were guided by Sree Narayana Guru, Sree Chattambi Swamigal & Ayyankali who encouraged them to start their own schools. The teachings of these saints empowered the poor and backward classes to know and fight for their rights.
- All this was possible because The Government of Kerala undertook all the operating expenses such as salaries for running these schools.
- Kerala had a matriarchal society right from its olden days. This enabled women to stand alongside the male members of their family and receive an education, while women in the other parts of India were fighting for their rights, leaving no room for development.
- In 1988, a pilot project began in Ernakulam where 50,000 volunteers tracked 175,000 illiterates between the ages of 5 and 60, two-thirds of them women. Within a year, it was hoped, the illiterates would read Malayalam at 30 words a minute, copy a text at 7 words a minute, count and write from 1 to 100, and add and subtract three-digit numbers.
- For those with poor eyesight, volunteers collected 50,000 donated pairs of old eyeglasses and learned from doctors how to match them with recipients.
- On February 4, 1990, 13 months after the initial canvass, Indian prime minister V.P. Singh marked the start of World Literacy Year with a trip to Ernakulam, declaring it the country's first totally literate district. Of the 175,000 students, 135,000 scored 80 percent or better on the final test, putting the region's official literacy rate above 96 percent; many of the others stayed in follow-up classes and probably had learned enough to read bus signs.
Despite its achievements, the model is heavily criticised for a very low industrial development in the state and high levels of unemployment. Almost one youth from every family in Kerala is working outside India or Kerala. Once these youngsters start settling down at their place of work outside Kerala, Kerala would be reduced to a Retirement Home without working youth and without inward remittance unless Kerala develops its potential in Service sectors like Tourism, Medicare, Education etc. and in Industries like IT, Electronics, Food processing, Meat & Fish processing etc.