J&K literacy rate on the rise

17 March 2008
The Hindu

Jammu: A quiet reconstruction is underway in the border State, as new classrooms are being built, teachers given advanced training while drop out rates decline, partly because of an efficient mid-day meal scheme. “Post-1989 was difficult for us. It wrought havoc. Education was the worst-hit. Teachers training was the worst-hit,” Muhammad Rafi, Director, School Education, Kashmir, told a group of journalists from Karnataka. A significant number of schools, particularly in the valley, became defunct in those years during which there was a “gross deficiency” of teachers, according to him. By 2010, Government aims to “fill up gaps” 100 per cent as far as physical infrastructure for elementary education is concerned. “Now the Government is on a sharper focus mode. 93 per cent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir have access to school education within one km of their home”. As per the 2001 census, Jammu and Kashmir’s literacy rate was 55.5 per cent (male: 66.6 per cent; female: 43 per cent). A national sample survey conducted in 2004 showed the literacy rate in the State at 65.33 per cent as a result of a sustained education campaign. But things have definitely become rosier now, the education department officials said, adding that the education sector is now clearly on a “revival mode”. “We can safely assume that the literacy rate now (in 2008) is in the region of 70-75 per cent,” said Mr. Rafi. “Continuous and comprehensive effort has give rise to this spurt; it’s discernible.” One is struck with awe during visits to some of the Government-run schools in and around Srinagar as well as those in the neighbouring Budgam district. Whether it’s in Zakura, Narpora and Narkura, there is a common thread in all these schools - they are all run as professionally as one could find in any other parts of the country, and some of them even have computer labs. A lower female literacy rate remained a worry, and officials say special attention is being given for enhancing their enrollment and reducing drop out rates. Free text books are being given to girl students as well as those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. “We are trying for a convergence between ‘madrasa’ education and modern education. English is already a regular subject from class I,” Mr. Rafi said.