Going by a government projection, the country will be “total literate” by the end of the current fiscal year, having enrolled some 1.74 million adult illiterates (15-60 years) in over 20,000 classes.
Loosely defined, total literacy is achieved when a given geography has more than 95 percent literacy rate.
The last official data, National Census 2011, puts Nepal’s literacy rate at 65.9 percent. Baburam Poudel, executive director of the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC), a government body that conducts literacy classes across the country, said over 3 million adults have been made literate in three years since the Census, taking the literacy rate to 84 percent.
Countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives in the region, with over 95 percent literacy rate, have not declared themselves as total literate. According to Tapa Raj Patna, national programme officer at Unesco, Nepal will be the first country to dub itself “total literate”.
A door-to-door survey showed there were 4,054,649 uneducated adults in the fiscal year 2012-13. Around 915,000 of them became literate through campaigns held in the year while 1.34 million benefitted from classes in the fiscal 2013-14. This still leaves 1.74 million illiterate.
The government has declared 2014-15 as the Illiteracy Elimination Year. According to a report released by the NFEC on Sunday, only 1,745,334 people above 15 years of age are illiterate.
The Centre has decided to recruit some 20,000 teachers and mobilise students and volunteers. Rs 1.05 billion is set to be spent.
Poudel claimed that 1.46 million illiterate people are from 16 districts in Tarai and Nuwakot, the worst among the Hill districts. The government has already declared Sindhupalchok, Lalitpur, Palpa, Dhading and Mustang as “total literate” on the basis of 95 percent literacy rate.
Last year, the government initiated its ‘Literate Nepal Mission’ as per the global commitment to eliminate illiteracy by 2015 as envisaged by the Millennium Development Goal. For effective implementation of the programme, the ministry formulated directives requiring students from grades nine or ten to contribute to the campaign as part of their course.
The students will get a target to make 308,162 people literate. For this, they will be awarded marks in the School Leaving Certificate examinations. Out of the 25 marks for practical skills, 10 will be allocated for their performance in the campaign.
Past records of the NFEC, however, portray a dubious picture. The programme has never met the target in the past five years. The campaign failed to accomplish its goal in the last four years. Only 1.8 million benefitted from the drive in 2009 against the target of 2.3 million, while only 1 million benefitted in 2010 against the target of 1.2 million.
The target of making 612,920 literate in 2011 was unmet too. Last year, only 1.3 million became literate against the target of 1.69 million. The programme has cost more than Rs 5 billion so far.