International Literacy Day is observed on 8 September every year across the globe. The day is celebrated to support and promote the development of literacy, quality of education and availability of learning opportunities to everyone.
The theme for International Literacy Day 2019 is ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’, which shines a light on the importance of linguistic diversity in education and literacy development, to overcome the challenges pertaining to complete literacy  .
8 September was declared as the International Literacy Day by UNESCO on 26 October 1966 to fight illiteracy and to promote literacy as the central necessary aspect for individual growth as well as societal growth.
On this International Literacy Day, Boldsky spoke to Akash Tandon from Pehchaan The Street School on the importance of literacy and how Pehchaan The Street School help combat the issue by educating underprivileged children in India.
Why Is ‘Pehchaan’ Necessary
In 2015, 5 volunteers came together with the idea of starting up a volunteer group where underprivileged children in India could get a chance at education. With 5 volunteers and 10 children, Pehchaan The Street School began 4 and a half years ago and is now at a capacity of more than 700 children registered in 5 different centres. Located at Delhi, the now-Trust worked as a volunteer group before transitioning into a Trust, to accommodate the needs of (the increasing number) students.
“We came across one of the biggest slums in Delhi and what caught the attention was the WHO building just 50m from the slum. It was confusing to understand the co-existence of it both – that is, the WHO building and a deprived and dilapidated slum. Not only that, next to the building, there were so many government offices and such” said Mr Akash.
“It was confounding to see that even with the law-makers and government right next to it, the slum and the people in it suffered from inadequacies”, continued Mr Akash. “So we went exploring the slum to understand the condition within and what we saw, literally broke us.”
The slum-dwellers did not have the basic necessities such as sanitation facilities, roads, water supply and such; thereby shining a light on the contradictions within the Indian society.
“We felt it was our duty to help the people in the slum. And the best way to help the society is by imparting wisdom – educating them. Because education is key!”
The volunteers took the decision of educating the kids from the slums, hoping to create a shift in the deplorable condition; impelled by their collective confidence that education is the one and the only element that can help a person grow introspectively.
Free Education To The Underprivileged Kids
From 5 to 80 Volunteers, Pehchaan Provides free education to underprivileged kids. The group of volunteers began with 7-8 children, who belonged to the slums of Delhi, which has reached several more than 700 now. The Trust is functioning at Indraprastha Metro Station, Kirti Nagar Metro Station, Satguru Ram Singh Marg Metro Station, GTB Nagar and Laxmi Nagar in Delhi, Noida and Dehradun as of 2019.
By educating children from the impoverished parts of our society, Pehchaan organises various events and functions to encourage the students. The volunteers here do not receive any salary benefits but are solely working for the exclusive objective of helping the children learn.
“We are all working. So, weekends are the only days when we have any time in our hand and we utilise that here at Pehchaan.”
On being asked about the selection criteria for children, Mr Akash responded, “We do not have any special criteria but we got out and explore the slum areas in the city and interact with the localite there to gain an understanding and where they stand on, with the idea of educating the children”.
Consequently, the Pehchaan volunteers scout areas and localities without schools and set up camps to help the children in need. The children are taught the basics – basically a mix of everything required to face the world.
“The children are taught the basics. That is, the students are taught about the things that they should be aware of if they were in school. Then we interact with them based on activities. We conduct various activities to let them understand various concepts and basically, we teach them whatever we can. There are classes of art, dance, music, yoga, karate and so on where the child can opt for the one he or she is interested in.”
Bettering India’s Illiteracy Problem, One Small Step At A Time
Literacy is the key for socio-economic growth in a country and according to the report by UNSECO, India has one of the highest population of illiterates at 287 million. Even with various schemes and government policies, illiteracy is still a problem in the country  .
With NGOs such as Pehchaan The Street School, the inspiriting of the poor section in achieving socio-economic independence and self-sustainability does not seem so impossible and far-fetched.
-  1. Goyal, S. (2019). International Literacy Day 2019: Theme, History & Significance [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/international-literacy-day-1536312685-1
-  2. Pandey, K. (2016). Mobile Education Mitigating the Heavy Magnitude of Illiteracy in India. In Human-Computer Interaction: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications (pp. 35-61). IGI Global.
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