Till four weeks ago, Rizwana Khatun, mother of three, had to affix her thumbprint to official documents that require signatures. But the Hauz Rani resident has started learning to read and write since. “I can now sign my name. My daughter and some volunteers taught me,” she says.
Weekly reading melas organised in schools and parks in Delhi were targeted at inculcating reading habits in children and giving them an extra push to school. But it has also prompted parents — especially mothers — to start learning to read and write.
At Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Malviya Nagar, the fourth reading mela got underway at 10 am. A blackboard was set up in the small open ground and 20 children sat on chairs, as a group of volunteers gave them a quick dictation quiz. A handful of parents sat aside, looking at their children’s progress and trying to copy what they were writing.
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“My girls love it here. They can read very well and are usually at the top of their class but they like coming here,” said Sahiba, a parent. The effort is part of the government’s plan to turn children, who could not read simple texts, despite being in senior classes, into readers. Children in classes VI to VIII were divided into two groups — of readers and non-readers. The non-readers were taught to read and write every hour each morning.
The government’s deadline to make all children readers expires today (Sunday), two-and-a-half months after the programme started. But children want the reading melas to continue. They conveyed the same to Education Minister Manish Sisodia when he visited the mela. “I am glad the children like these events so much. They should get all the time and attention they need,” he said.
Attendance sees a dip on Sunday
As volunteers milled into schools for the reading mela on Sunday, they found only a handful of children had turned up. “We asked around and realised that many parents had either asked their children to stand in line for exchanging money or could not bring in their children as they were themselves standing in line,” said Monica Talwar, a volunteer.
The education department confirmed that attendance was low on Sunday. “It seems parents were busy trying to exchange or withdraw money and didn’t have time to get their children to the sessions,” said an official.
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