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  • Kolkata drops sharply on the literacy scale

    Over the last 10 years, Kolkata’s rank among the country’s 593 districts has fallen from 31 to 46 on the literacy scale, according to the 2001 census. The figures suggest that around four-fifths of the country’s districts posted better results than Kolkata in reducing illiteracy during the past decade. The city’s literacy rate grew from 77.61 to 81.31 per cent.

    The Kolkata Municipal Corporation area lags far behind other towns in Bengal. It ranks 70 in the list of 120 municipal towns and municipalities. “The literacy campaign in the city was never strong compared with the districts. In the late ‘90s, a committee was set up to evaluate the impact of the literacy campaign, but it couldn’t function due to the government’s inefficiency,” says an educationist.

    The contribution of women to the city’s literacy figures, however, deserves mention. With a literacy rate of 84.07%, the city’s men had an all-India rank of 134, while women, with 77.95%, claimed the 29th position.

    Experts say that reducing illiteracy in densely populated urban centres, which have a high presence of migrant daily-wage earners and domestic help, is difficult. But they also point out that campaigns can be worked out to suit the situation.

    Kerala has shown us how to address illiteracy in urban areas, says Raghabendra Chattopadhyay of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata. Seven districts in Kerala feature among the top 10 literate districts.

    In 1999, Chattopadhyay headed a study commissioned by the state government and Unicef on elementary education in Bengal. The report identified gaps in the delivery system and questioned official estimates of enrolment and dropout rates in schools, after studying 72 urban blocks and 106 villages. The findings were not published.

    Kanti Biswas, minister in charge of school education, has put forward a host of reasons for Kolkata’s poor performance: “The city has a high population density. Besides, hundreds and thousands of working-class people, mostly illiterate, from neighbouring states, are constantly coming to Kolkata. So, despite a record increase in the number of school-going students in the past two decades, we suffer in terms of literacy rates.”

    According to Rajib Sinha of Unicef, 10 to 15% of children in the city belong to the ‘difficult-to-reach’ category. “A survey in 2001 found over 30,000 children in the city not going to school. When we started about 450 schools under the Sikshalaya Prakalpa, only 22,000 registered,” he added.

    Source: http://infochangeindia.org


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