Literacy as a lamp

Rev Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *

A classroom in session at Morning Dew School situated at Kapaar Kachoung Village under Kakching, Manipur
A classroom in session at Morning Dew School situated at Kapaar Kachoung Village under Kakching :: Pix - Shonnai Saka


Education is a process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools or colleges, to improve knowledge and develop skill while literacy refers to the ability to read and write. Therefore, education is the process to achieve literacy. In the recent past, literacy rate in Manipur has seen an upward trend. With its 27.21 lakh population Manipur prides its literacy of 79.85%, Male-86.49%, Female-73.17%.

Education directly contributes to reduction of poverty and consciousness of the self. This self consciousness is spoken in different rhetoric as enlightenment, self achievement, self actualization, etc. Education ultimately leads to serve all, love all and deference from violent ways.

In 2001, the United Nations adopted the resolution of the United Nations Literacy Decade, but today, in every country, too many people are still being excluded from literacy and the literate environments are far from being up to the task. As we all know that literacy is an internationally recognized fundamental Human Rights, and has multiple beneficial effects on people and societies, so the urgent need to create the environment for education and root out all hurdles on the way of literacy.

UNESCO says "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society". This participation in societal building will necessarily bring about changes and evolutions.


Now a days, the fashion is to pick a branded thing from the shopping malls. Why not we opt for a quality literacy or quality education also. Quality literacy implies that we look into the literate environment necessary to promote literacy, as suggested by the United Nations Literacy Decade:
(a) Once literate, can one put in practice the new abilities?
(b) Is the learning language appropriate? In multilingual contexts, the language of instruction does not always fit with the language used.

In Senegal, although French is the official language, over 80% teachers say using local language in 2nd grade (CONFEMEN, 2007). In India, the National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005) has insisted on promotion of Mother Tongue/Language of each region. NCF speaks on language as "A renewed effort should be made to implement the three-language formula, emphasizing the recognition of children's home language(s) or mother tongue(s) as the best medium of instruction. These include tribal languages. English needs to find its place along with other Indian languages. The multilingual character of Indian society should be seen as a resource for the enrichment of school life."


The importance of literacy for development is reflected in international agreements such as Education for All and the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Through both of these agreements, countries have committed to a 50% improvement in the adult literacy rate by 2015. We are almost at the end of this target, time to seriously reflect the state of our literacy in word and practice.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also envelop goals towards literacy, a fact that illustrates the central importance of literacy in poverty reduction. "A lack of literacy skills limits the potential for societies to deal with issues such as discrimination, poor health, social exclusion and powerlessness. Literacy is at the heart of the social, cultural, economic and political wellbeing of individuals, communities, societies and nations, indeed of the world" The task ahead is enormous - globally over 785 million adults are classified as 'illiterate' and hundreds of millions more can do little more than recognize isolated words.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics' (UIS) Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP) was developed to gather quality data on literacy through new national household surveys repeated on a five to ten-year cycle. The LAMP instruments and methods were developed by and validated in six countries: El Salvador, Kenya, Mongolia, Morocco, Niger and Palestinian Autonomous Territories.


Literacy is a keystone of development. It has a direct impact on the health, psyche and emotional wellbeing of communities. Is enhances democratic participation, fights against discrimination, sustains livelihood and improves growth. Beyond this effect, education is the fundamental human right. Like any human right, it must be defended and extended. It also helps to defend Human Right and fights against the violation of the Human Rights. Literacy becomes a LAMP to guide. But there needs to be a WAY to use the lamp and walk. I mean that WAY is the social environment favourable for literacy expansion.


Literacy becomes the greatest Human Resource that can be tapped for good or evil. This human resource (literacy) needs to be organized that requirements a significant art and science of managing educated people for an organization (society or state or country). Absence of this strategic planning for human resources would create a scene of intellectual giants and potential energies that can explode unexpected. It's a time to shift from mere HIGH MARKS rat-race scenario to COMPREHENSIVE PERSONAL EVALUATION not oriented towards judgment but bent on guidance. Since literacy effects or affects humans, it necessarily requires participation of all the sections of the society.

* Rev Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer, a sociologist by training and profession, teaches Sociology at Nagaland University
This article was posted on July 31, 2013.

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