Is Literacy a way out of Poverty? 

Ms. Anuradha Mohanty

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It unlocks the door to learning throughout life, and is essential for the development and health, and opens the way for democratic participation and active citizenship. Acquiring literacy is an empowering process, enabling millions to enjoy access to knowledge and information which broadens horizons, increases opportunities and creating alternatives for building a better life. - Kofi Annan  
The theme of International Literacy Day 2015 is Literacy and Sustainable Societies. In spite of persistent illiteracy, adult literacy rates have increased in all regions over the past two decades. Globally, the adult literacy rate was 76% in 1990, 82% in 2000 and 84% in 2011. Globally, the illiterate population fell from 881 million in 1990 to 774 million in 2011. Nevertheless, 743 million adults are still expected to lack basic literacy skills in 2015, mainly in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
A close correlation has been observed between a country’s literacy rates and national wealth (measured by GDP per capita). In addition, a trend can also be observed with increased literacy rates and a decrease in the share of the population living in poverty.
The 15th official census in India was calculated in the year 2011. In a country like India, literacy is the main foundation for social and economic growth. In 1947, the literacy rate was just 12%. Over the years, 2011 census, literacy rate reached 74.04%. The numbers of children who do not get education especially in the rural areas are still high. Today, the female literacy level according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census is 65.46% where the male literacy rate is over 80%.
All over the world, women account for almost two-thirds (496 million) of the illiterate adults worldwide. There are 187 million Indian women who are still illiterate. Indian women account for one of every four illiterate adults worldwide. With 287 million illiterate adults, India accounts for 36.7% of the world’s illiterate population — by far the largest share of any nation.
The Population of Odisha according to the 2011 census stands at about 41 million. The literacy rate in the state is about 73%. The literacy rate in the state has seen an upward trend from the last census in 2001 63.8% and is about 73% (as per Census 2011). Male literacy stands at 81.59 percent while female literacy is at 64.01 percent. As per Statistics of School Education (2010-2011), the Gross Enrollment ratio for elementary education was 114.1 which reduced to 42.1 in classes IXth and Xth. In case of girls, the situation worsens as per 100 boys enrolled in classes IXth and Xth, only 86 girls enroll in the same classes. The other major factor is the high numbers of dropouts. The overall dropout rate declined from 63.5 percent in 2005-06 to 51.0 percent in 2010-11. But, the dropout rates for STs and SCs are still higher. Still, a long distance has to be covered to do away with the various regional, social, and gender disparities and provide an equal opportunity to all to have a literate and educated community. This is important as education is an imperative indicator which influences other development indicators including health, income, nutritional status, and family welfare amongst others.

Executive Director
People’s Cultural Centre [PECUC]

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