The issue of literacy is a key component of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and is also one of the UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development. World leaders adopted the goal of literacy as it promotes the universal right to quality education and learning opportunities for all. It serves to highlight the progress made by governments, civil societies and various stakeholders on world literacy rates as well as the challenges yet to be overcome. The development of literacy skills is believed to help improve people’s working abilities and even life circumstances, and ultimately be a contributing factor in the creation of equitable and sustainable societies. The global literacy rates for all males is 90.00 % and the rate for female literacy is 82.7%; this rate varies across the globe with developed nations having higher literacy rates and the developing nations lagging behind. India’s overall literacy rate is 74.04 % and Nagaland’s literacy rate is 79.55 %, with males at 82.75% and female literacy rate at 76.11 % according to India’s 2011 census.
English has been the official language of Nagaland since 1967, which is over 50 years now. All these years, English has been the official medium for education in the state and it has propelled the development of Naga society manifold, by teaching us knowledge gathered from around the world. There are doctors, engineers, teachers, writers, journalists, officers of all industries, and many other educated individuals flourishing in the state and beyond. But unfortunately, our state has also seen a decline in the quality of education over the past few decades. Perhaps it is an epidemic that began many years ago but it has become none more evident than in this world of social media that we live in today. From the multitudes of forwards and comments by individuals on various social media platforms, be it on Facebook or WhatsApp groups, documents by government officials and appointment request letters too are victims to many errors. It is evident that we are not only butchering the English Language and the knowledge that has come through it; we are also inciting hatred and spreading falsehood. Our lack of civic sense and readiness to blindly follow hearsay from others are also examples that support the fact that literacy does not necessarily mean “educated.”
There is a clear fallacy in the literacy condition of the state. Solely blaming the quality of education is too harsh, as there are many factors that affect literacy and education rates of a place. Family constraints and imperatives, an individual’s own disposition, learning disabilities, support from home and role models, poverty or survival needs rather than education, or Nagaland’s alarming rate of dropouts (highest in the country), etc, are some conditions for low literacy rates. The Right of Children to free and compulsory education till the completion of elementary school was amended by the government of India and is being applied by the Nagaland state government too. However, besides this compulsory education, perhaps we as a society need to focus on reading beyond our text books and social media forwards. Get lost in the pages of books, visit times old and new, and learn from the greatest minds in human history, as well as from the innovators planning for the future. Appreciate and emulate local authors such as Easterine Kire and Temsula Ao. Or even go above and beyond to dedicate time to read to and educate children and even adults that are yet unreached by literacy. Literacy in Nagaland is under threat and we must do all that we can to combat it.
“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratisation, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity.” – Kofi Annan.