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Each one, teach one

Mala Ashok

Education and literacy are the keys to a good future, yet much of our population remains illiterate. Everyone, however young, has a social responsibilty to help eradicate illiteracy

Most of you will be able to answer the question — "What is special about September 5?" "Teacher's Day", when you go with gifts to your teachers. Some of you would have even taken over teaching duties for junior classes to give your teachers a day off. But what is special about September 8?' Not many may know that that day is celebrated as World Literacy Day.

Why is literacy so important for India? Literacy, simply put, is the ability to read and write. On some days, when you have a lot of homework, you may wish you never had to go to school. But you are lucky indeed to be able to get the gift of learning. It's basically the ability to read and write that enables you get a good education. This not only assures you of a good job but also gives you the tools which help broaden your mind.

India has a population of over a billion. Unfortunately, half a century after independence, we still have the dubious distinction of having the most number of illiterate people. Only when 100 per cent literacy is achieved can we hope to progress. It's with this in view that the slogan, "Desh ko samman do, subko akshar gyan do" has been coined (Give the country respect, give everyone the gift of learning).

"What does this all have to do with me? I can read and write," you might say. In such a large country, the Government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of eradicating illiteracy. Everyone, however young, has a social responsibility to help.

You ask "How?" Take, for example, your maid. You can offer to teach her if she is illiterate. Quite often they feel embarrassed to learn from adults but are receptive to learning from children. You could check if she has children who do not go school.

Maybe a part of your pocket money (and if you could convince them, that of your friends too) will help pay for books and supplies.

What happens if these children do not go to school? Often, children, as young as nine years, have to work in various trades.

Among the most notorious of these is the carpet industry. They are paid a pittance and kept away from their families. A Canadian teenager, Craig Kielburger, who visited India some years ago, was moved by their plight. He went back home and started an organisation called "Free the Children".

Lack of education is the main cause. Next time you are at a traffic light and a young boy comes out to wipe your windshield for a tip, try to stop and talk him into going to school.

If you take one hour of your day, each day, you might be able to make a difference in somebody's life. Our slogan should be, "Each one, Teach one!"

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