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Literacy means something different to everyone. For some it is freedom, for others it is development. Here’s our ode to Literacy, on International Literacy Day.

International Literacy Day 2019 celebrates literacy with a different angle — multilingualism. What better place than India to witness literacy and multilingualism! Barack Obama called literacy, ‘the most basic currency of the knowledge economy’. At Hand in Hand India, we’ve witnessed that literacy changes lives in different ways — learning letters being the building blocks for a lifetime of achievement. This story highlights what we have witnessed in this space across India.

Breaking the barrier of age


Mamta is the star of her class. She aces her math tests and can rattle with ease the number tables too. Mamta is no primary grade student, she is a grandmother and is 70-years-young!

Mamta is all grins as she shows off her exercise book!

This is Rajasthan, India — where the female literacy rate hovers around a low 52%. We work with the women of our Self Help Groups and encourage them to learn the letters at any age. Mamta is just one among around 176,150-plus women who have benefited through our adult literacy programme.

Meet the teacher, my daughter!


Meet my daughter, says Kamala!

Kamala is from Pali, Rajasthan and has a lot of fun learning Hindi alphabets from her teacher Pooja. Nothing special as most classes go. Just that in this case, Kamala is the 40-year-old mother and Pooja is her 20-year-old daughter! The mother belongs to HiH India’s SHG where she joined to learn how to utilise her time productively. Kamala quickly made up for lost time and is now able to keep up the business accounting of her family’s dairy farming with great confidence.

Literacy is not just letters

Tamil Nadu

At Vellore, we run a Residential Special Training Centre for girls from underprivileged backgrounds. Literacy here has a multi-dimensional aspect for the students and teachers of this school. While they do learn their alphabets and numbers, their day, however, starts with Yoga and fitness classes. For the teachers, imparting learning starts from scratch, like teaching them table etiquette or personal hygiene. It’s all about trust — both ways!

Here's the story of our superhero teachers too.

A room with a view


When we visited Maharashtra’s Ovale panchayat, where we run a composite village uplift programme, we saw some cheerful scenes. At the local Anganwadi (Government provided day care centres), the attendance was in full. This colourful Anganwadi is bringing joy to many. In the six months since we upgraded the Anganwadi and had it repainted, the student population has grown considerably.

“With clean classrooms and colourful stories on the walls, which child wouldn’t want to come here!”, says Rukmini, the Anganwadi In-Charge. She attributes higher children retention and learning levels to the upgraded Anganwadi. What is unique about the new students is they are first-generation learners from tribal families in the vicinity. Shall we say then that literacy is also about a school-room with a view? It’s all in the perspective!

Learning about money: priceless

Madhya Pradesh

At the State Bank of India branch in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district, three women in their ghoongats (veil) enter the ATM. The look on their faces as they exit is something more than happiness — it is confident happiness if there is such an expression!

These women are first generation literates from our Self Help Groups. They have not just learnt the 3Rs, but have also got the grasp of handling their money, saving it, using a bank’s ATM, and also using a phone. We call this financial literacy. They call it a new life!

Similar is Sakkubai’s story and how SHG’s help rural Indian women.

Literacy beyond classrooms


The strength of Public Private Partnerships can be witnessed in this Government school in Gujarat. We work with our CSR partner in this school to upgrade academic and functional facilities. Learning in this school happens through the STEM system — Science Technology Engineering and Math.

Seen here are children working with a robotic model that helps them learn their subjects. In far away Madhya Pradesh, read Rajan’s story on how he too loves to learn.

When we met all these people from different states, different ages, there was just one thing that kept them going — the eagerness to learn. We remembered an adage, ‘When you hear, you forget. When you see, you remember. When you do, you understand.’ It seems after all that literacy is all about understanding words and thereby the world!

Hand in Hand India, is a public charitable trust working to alleviate poverty through job creation and integrated community development across 16 States of India. Registered in 2002, the organization works in interrelated areas of child labour elimination and education; women empowerment through skilling and access to credit for job creation; skill development; health and environment.