Archive for the ‘Literacy Campaign’ Category

Activities: Photographs

Residents Welfare Association of Sector  A Pocket C, in Vasant Kunj has given space in their office premises since over seven years for running classes for under privileged children. They have also supported group activities and ensured participation of children in all RWA functions, especially functions on  the Republic Day .

A new room in the Community centre has been also allocated for holding the classes of children.

Acrylic Painting

Srijan Foundation is thankful to Col Kain, President of ARWA, Mr MM Agarwal Secretary, , Dr Usha Mukerjee and all members of RWA for their unqualified support.

Photographs of children who participate in these functions have been placed on our website earlier.

Srijan Foundation has been funding many of the children’s activities over the past decade.

Since last one year members of DEEP Foundation have been associated . They have commenced taking additional classes for children once or twice a week, and also preparing children for group activities.

We thank them for their selfless service. Ms Aparna Mathur has been active in teaching the children spoken English and general knowledge. She has also been teaching painting techniques to the kids, acrylic painting on fabric etc; and some of the paintings done by the children are placed below.

Sujata Suri  has been training the children in dance ,and choreographing their dances for presentation on various occasions. Ms Sujata has also arranged for almirahs and books for the children’ library which has been set up in the Room given by RWA. Pictures of the library are also placed below.

Mr Gaurav has been teaching Science, maths and GK. He has also been helping in identifying colleges to which our children passing High School examination can join.

Mr Nareshwar Prasad is continuing to teach the children from his home ,due to the onset of summer.

We are grateful to Mr Subash Dewan & Rahul Dewan for their unstinting support to Srijan activities.

 

Children’s Poster Painting Competetion : Rotary Delhi South West

31 Jan 2010

Rotary, Delhi South West,  had arranged fora Poster Painting Competition for children Civil Services sports Ground.

Rotary South – West organizes this event every year for  motivating the children.

Our Children from Vasant Kunj also participated in the event.

It was a wonderful sight to see hundreds of children from 4 years to 17, in colourful dresses, and cheerful faces, engrossed in painting pictures. Their enthusiasm had to be seen and felt, to be believed.

Rotary DSW deserves all praise for the opportunity they have provided to the children of Delhi. Many of the children were under privileged and for them it was really a lifetime opportunity to be provided with so much care and attention, to meet and mingle with other children on an equal footing.

About 2200 children participated in the painting Competition. Also there were about 1000 teachers, parents & guardians who brought their children with them.
There were Four Age groups & Topics

1. Pride of Delhi, 2. Conservation of Resources3. Social Crime4. Social Responsibilities

Children painted beautiful posters in all age group.

The entries were evaluated by a panel of eminent judges headed by Mr Surya Sadan, Montreal based artist from Canada.

Smt Kiran Walia, Minister of Health & Family Welfare gave away the prizes to winners.

All Children were given the participation certificate.  Lunch/Snack,  Mineral water/Cold drinks etc were also given to each participant. To entertain & thrilled children there was magic show  & Jokers too. There was a stall of Dhyan Foundation educating children & adults on Sanatan Kirya & Miracles of Yog.

Rotary Club’s District Governor Ashish Ghosh Rotary South West President Mr Ved  Chandna, Secretary Mr Lalit Vohra,  Mr Ranjan Chopra  Event Chairman &  Mr Pankaj Agarwal Event Co-Chairman , many other Rotarians & their family members actively participated in the program.

 

Warm someone’s heart today

Mr Watwani has sent this.

ONE OF THE BEST STORIES I HAVE EVER HEARD!

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard .

Mrs.Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs.Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big ‘F’ at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs.Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…He is a joy to be around..’

His second grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.’

His third grade teacher wrote, ‘His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.’

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.’

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s.

His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.

But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, ‘Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.’

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.

The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her ‘teacher’s pets’.


A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.

But now his name was a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did.

And guess what?

She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, ‘Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.’

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, ‘Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.’

(For you that don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Doctor at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Warm someone’s heart today. . . pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. Just try to make a difference in someone’s life today? tomorrow? just ‘do it’.

Random acts of kindness, I think they call it!

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Unsung :Girl tops exam, beats disability

Girl tops exam, beats disability

Visually Impaired Is An Ace

Ikram Khan | TNN

Bangalore: She can’t see but is showing the way. Sumaiya Khan, 15, topped the exams at St Michael’s High School (RT Nagar) and promises to continue her sterling performance in college next year.
Sumaiya was adjudged the best student after securing 94% in her preparatory exams.

The gutsy lass, who has coped with darkness since birth, is looking to achieve distinction in the SSLC exams. “I’m studying eight hours a day and hope to get more than the preparatory exam marks,” she said.

“She is a brilliant girl. What amazes me is her focus and determination to challenge and beat the best. I’m confident she will do our school proud this year,” said school principal Naushad Nazir of head girl Sumaiya.

Her mother Nikath, a nursery teacher at the same school, said Sumaiya was a lot easier to teach, simply because she was always willing to learn and compete with normal children.

“She chose to study in a normal school and from the day she started, she has managed to top the class. She has won many debates and singing competitions. She loves challenges and that helps her scale new heights,” said Nikath.

After winning the Best Visually Challenged Student, a state award conferred by the National Federation of the Blind, a couple of years ago, Sumaiya was the lone child who made it to the final list of Horlicks Wiz Kids International School competition.

“I was selected from among 6,000 students and the onus was on me to make Bangalore proud. I gave it my best shot and all my teachers and friends were delighted and appreciated my effort,” said Sumaiyya. She made it to the final 12 round of the talent and quiz test.

Sumaiya was stood first in the International Chinthana Science exam and did well in the Winnova Genius Talent Search. Her favourite subject is social studies and she aims to give the civil services exam a shot. Knowing her steely resolve, her parents Abdullah Khan and Nikath are confident she will do well there too.

new-picture-4

 

Mohan Kedkar: Mumbaikars express gratitude for selfless service

Help for Bandra braveheart’s kin

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Mumbai: “He was always a quiet boy. He was always the first one to rush and help people,’’ said 55-year-old Pandurang Redkar about his 20-year-old son Mohan who died while saving a couple from drowning at Bandra bandstand four months ago.

He seemed oblivious of the praises that eminent personalities heaped on him at a crowded hall in Khar (W) on Saturday evening. Redkar wept as commissioner of police Hasan Gafoor handed him an envelope containing a cheque of Rs 4 lakh, an award for his son’s bravery. The function ended with around 100 people paying a silent tribute to Mohan.

To acknowledge the display of courage and selfless service of this young mechanic, the members of the Mohalla Committee Movement Trust, with the help of the Bandra police, collected the reward money from people. Some of the police staff also contributed to this fund.

“The police are looked down upon as being ‘toughies’. But we are human beings. Whenever I think of this youngster, I get shivers down my spine,’’ said additional commissioner of police Archana Tyagi. “The Bandra police themselves initiated the collection. This shows that we too have a soft side,’’ said Tyagi.

Originally from Malavan village in Sindhudurg district, Mohan was working as a trainee mechanic with Mahindra & Mahindra in Kandivli for the past two years. He was the primary breadwinner of his family.

Both his parents have heart ailments while his sister and elder brother are engineering students in Goa. Due to financial constraints in the family, Redkar left studies after Std X to train as a diesel mechanic.

His relatives said his mother’s treatment was possible only because of his earnings. On April 11, Mohan visited Bhabha Hospital to inquire if he could get his mother admitted for heart valve medical treatment.

After making the inquiries, he went to take a stroll at Bandstand. “Suddenly, he noticed a young couple huddled in chest deep water, trying hard to hold on to the rocks. Without hesitation, he removed his clothes, gave his cellphone to an onlooker and flung himself into the cold water,’’ said Prakash George, senior police inspector, Bandra police station.

“He was swept away from the shore after dragging them to safety,’’ he added. Ironically, at the end of the day, Mohan’s body was brought to the same Bhabha Hospital from where he had started his day. What would Redkar’s father do with the money?

“Use it for my daughter’s education,’’ he replied. When asked how he felt about his son becoming an icon of selflessness, he wept, again. toireporter@timesgroup.com

REMEMBERING THE GOOD SAMARITAN: Mohan’s father, Pandurang Redkar, was handed over a cheque of Rs 4 lakh by Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor on Saturday

 

Kolkata student Tops: Offers galore from US ‘Varsities

KOLKATA: From prestigious Princeton to MIT, city boy Rik Sengupta can pick and choose where he wants to study — for free. The South Pointer has bagged full scholarship seats at seven top universities in the US.

Princeton, the top ranking university in the US, has offered him a scholarship of $52,990 a year. His other scholarships have even more jaw-dropping amounts: Yale $53,764, Caltech $48,490, MIT $51,540, Williams College (1st among undergraduate liberal arts colleges) $50,390 and Amherst College $51,832.

“Rik has also won the Angier B Duke Memorial Merit Scholarship from Duke University, which is awarded to only two students worldwide. It includes a summer semester at Oxford and adds up to over $220,000,” said his proud father Jayanta.

The 18-year-old, who loves mathematics and physics as much as he does writing and music, wants to be an academic. After passing his higher secondary exams with an impressive score of 449, he opted not to take the IIT-JEE and WBJEE. Instead, he wants to focus on research with a “liberal arts education”.

“He has figured out that he can best follow his dreams in the US, because no institution in India would cater to his wide-ranging interests in science as well as the humanities,” Jayanta said. “USEFI tells us his achievement is unprecedented.”

Rik scored 2380 out of 2400 in the SAT Reasoning Test and 118/120 in TOEFL. “If a student tops SAT, he may receive offers from several top US varsities. Rik’s case is unique because he has received full scholarships from all top-notch US universities,” said Sunrit Mullick, regional officer and educational adviser, USEFI.

The whizkid is, however, modest about his achievement. “My application was very strong. They look for a good school record, extra-curricular accomplishments and teachers’ recommendations. Luckily, I could convince them about my choice of subjects,” Rik told TOI.

For the record, Rik chose Princeton.

 

Dedication: Nurturing rural talents

Tutor who sold pappad guides all 30 kids to IITs

 

Pranava K Chaudhary | TNN

 

Patna: When Patna’s maths wizard Anand Kumar, who once hawked ‘‘pappad’’ to earn a living, started his noble initiative, Super-30, to coach 30 economically weak students for IIT-JEE in 2003 free of cost, 18 of them made it to IITs. 
   The number of successful candidates rose to 22 in 2004, 26 in 2005 and 28 in 2006. Twenty-eight of the 30 cracked the exam in 2007 as well. And now, all of them—all the 30 aspirants—have come out with flying colours this year.
   It was a festival-like scene at Anand’s residence at the nondescript Chand Pur Bela locality in Patna. ‘‘I am planning to select 500 IIT aspirants from across the country to coach them for next year’s JEE,’’ a beaming Anand told TOI and added all of them would be from underprivileged sections of the society.
   Himself a bright student, Anand could not pursue higher studies due to poverty spawned by the premature death of his father. ‘‘My mother used to prepare ‘papad’ and I used to pedal in the lanes and bylanes of Patna selling them,’’ Anand recounted, recalling the days which motivated him to help the poor pursue higher studies.
   Super-30 was jointly initiated by Anand and IPS officer Abhayanand to provide free coaching and guidance to poor students who show promise. Anand also runs a Ramanujan School of Mathematics (RSM) which pays for the boarding of the Super-30 students. During their seven-month intensive coaching, the students have to strictly stay away from their homes. But they get ‘‘homemade food’’, prepared by Anand’s mother Jayanti Devi.

Son of bidi worker clears UPSC exam    
Gondia: This is the story of how determination spells success. Hailing from a poor family of bidi labours, 22-year-old Dhananjay Wanjari, is perhaps the youngest IAS aspirant in the country to have cleared the civil services exam this year. A resident of Kamtha (Birsi) village, about 15 km from Gondia, Dhananjay lost his father when he was only 4. His mother, Sumabai, a bidi labourer toiled for her upbringing. He passed his matriculation exam from GES High school, Kamtha and graduated from D B Science College, Gondia. Later he went to Bhopal and Delhi for post graduation and preparation of UPSC examination. Only last year he joined as lecturer at Susil Ismail College in Mumbai.
   Speaking to TOI, Sumabai said, “It is very difficult to supplement family income and pursue education at the same time. But Dhananjay did it with diligence. He took each hurdle as a challenge and cleared it with determination.” Sonabai said that Dhananjay used to roll bidis since childhood along with his aunt Rampyari, but was very ambitious. Sonabai recalls that he wanted to be an officer since childhood. Dhananjay, who is currently in Mumbai, said his achievement means there is no dearth of talent in rural parts of India. “It is how one perceives opportunities and makes the most of them that determines success,” he said.

Diwakar Phatak | TNN

 

 

 

 

Children: Treat them with Kindness

Treating Children With Kindness
Adil Salahi, Arab News

Children were always certain of kind treatment by the Prophet (peace be upon him). Whenever he saw a child, he received him/her with a smile and said some pleasant words, even when the Prophet was preoccupied with something very serious. Anas ibn Malik, who served the Prophet throughout his 10-year stay in Madinah, said: “I never saw anyone who was more kind to children than God’s Messenger.” (Related by Muslim.)

He did not differentiate between boys and girls; he was very kind to all, teaching his companions that kindness to children must be an essential characteristic of every Muslim. We should put this in its proper perspective; his was a society characterized by its rough attitude in all situations, and particularly harsh in its treatment of girls and women.

Some Bedouins visiting Madinah saw him kissing one of his grandchildren. One of them asked: “Do you kiss your young ones; by God we never do that.”

The Prophet said: “What can I do for you if God has removed compassion from your heart?” This was a pointed answer, telling those rough people that their attitude was wrong and it should better be changed.

Compassion is a virtue that we should nurture, and its primary aspect is to be kind to young children.

Whenever the Prophet returned to Madinah after being away on an expedition or travel, he was met by children who went out to give him a welcome. Abdullah ibn Jaafar, whose father was a cousin of the Prophet, said that on one such occasion, he was the first taken to the Prophet: “He took me up and placed me in front of him as he was on his mount. Then one of Fatimah’s two sons was brought to him and he placed him behind him. Thus all three of us entered Madinah on one mount.” (Related by Muslim.)

The Prophet was leading the Muslim army on its way to Khaybar when he passed by the living quarters of the Ghifar tribe. He noticed a girl who was walking fast alongside the army. Realizing that she wanted to give any help to the soldiers, the Prophet took her behind him on his mount. When they stopped for rest and he dismounted, he noticed that she looked very shy. He realized that she has just had her period. It was her first time, so he taught her how to clean herself and her clothes. She stayed with the army until after the battle. The Prophet gave her a necklace from the booty. She wore that necklace without ever taking it off. She grew up to achieve fame and was to be known as Layla Al-Ghifariyyah.

Whenever a child was with the Prophet, he would teach that child something simple, short and very effective. Abdullah ibn Abbas was a young boy when he once rode behind the Prophet on his mount. The Prophet said that he wanted to teach him some very useful words. These were: “Be careful with what God has given you, and He will take care of you. Remain within the limits God has set and you will always find Him before you.

Get to know God in times of ease, and He will know you in times of hardship. Learn that what you have missed would have never been yours, and what you have got you would have never missed. Learn also that victory is assured with perseverance, a way out is certain to come after a time of stress, and that hardship is followed by ease.” (Related by Al-Bukahri.)

When we consider these words we realize that they were simple enough to be understood by a 10-year old, yet they can be fundamental in shaping a young man’s attitude to life in general. A young child can easily learn the Prophet’s words by heart, yet they will be of benefit to him throughout his life. Not only so, but the child in this case reported these words so that we can all learn them and bring our attitude to life events in line with them. Yet the Prophet’s teaching of children could be much simpler. Abdullah ibn Busr Al-Mazini reported that when he was a young child, his mother sent him with a bunch of grapes to give to the Prophet. On the way, he ate some grapes. “When I gave it to the Prophet, he held my ear and said: ‘You little cheat!’” Thus the lesson of delivering something intact was given to the young child in a very gentle way.

His companions realized that whatever prayer the Prophet said, God would answer in the broadest and fullest way. Therefore, when children were born, they were often brought to the Prophet to bless them. He would welcome them and do more than their parents hoped for. The whole Muslim community were delighted when Asma’ bint Abu Bakr gave birth to her son, Abdullah, the first child to be born to the Muslim community in Madinah after the Prophet and the Makkan Muslims migrated there.

“She took her newborn to the Prophet. He took the child, put him on his lap, took a date and rubbed the child’s jaws with it before praying for him and blessing him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

In some societies, particularly the Arabian society at the time, when adults met, children were told to keep away. The Prophet’s attitude was different; he welcomed children and attended to them.

His companions in Madinah were farmers. They often brought him the early ripe fruit, hoping for a prayer of blessing. “Whenever he was brought such fruit, he would pray: ‘Our Lord, bless our city, our fruit and measures, and make each blessing goes with another.’ He would then give the fruit to the youngest child present.” (Related by Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi). On one occasion he was talking to a group of adults and dates were served to them, when some children came in. He took a bunch of dates and gave it to the children.

This was in total contrast to what any Arab host would have done. Had his children come in when he was entertaining guests, an Arab would have told them off and ordered them out.

In all this the Prophet set an example, not only for people in his generation, but for all future generations. Hence, you find that Muslim parents are always likely to take good care of their children, and to be compassionate to all young people. This ensures that family relations remain strong and families remain closely knit.

This is a great blessing that has yielded great benefits to Muslim families in all societies, across countless generations.

 

UP:Education:3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP

3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP

Absenteeism rises in Class X & XII board exams

Strict Vigil against copying keeps students away

 

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow

      IN AN irony of sorts, over 3.5 lakh students in the country’s Hindi heartland failed to appear for the Hindi paper in the state’s board examination. Uttar Pradesh has been protesting against English education since a quarter of a century.

         The impact of the ‘ Hindi lao angreji hatao’ movement launched by socialist leaders in the 1970s was so strong, lakhs of students stopped learning the English alphabet. Former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav went to the extent of calling English the “ language of corrupt people”.

        Hindi has traditionally held sway in UP, even though it’s English that has helped India shine globally. But this year’s state board examinations have revealed a disturbing trend. The Uttar Pradesh school education department wants to set up a committee to probe why over 3.5 lakh examinees bunked the Hindi test on Thursday. Officials admitted that never before had such a large number of students evaded Hindi papers.

         “ So far this year, the drop- out rate was the highest for the Hindi test,” said Prabha Tripathi, secretary of the Board of High School and Intermediate Education. “ We will form a committee to find out why so many students stayed away from the test.” But, the board estimates the drop- out rate could rise in the coming days.

         “ If this trend continues, we estimate that over five lakh students will not take the mathematics test on March 10 and 12. For the English papers, the drop- out figure could be as high as seven lakh. These two are the most commonly dreaded subjects,” Tripathi said.

 

        K. M. Tripathi, director, secondary education, said the entire examination system has been revamped this year to check cheating. “ We have tightened the screws on not only unscrupulous students but also teachers. Absenteeism among teachers and their active encouragement to use unfair means is equally deplorable.

       

       Absenteeism has a direct bearing on students’ inclination to cheat. So this session, we had provided teachers with a schedule- book and a calendar to keep track of what they taught on a day- today basis,” he said. He added that strict measures were taken to pre- empt cheating. “ There was a trend to write out the answers on the blackboards. So we instructed every school to either remove the boards from the classrooms or apply a mud coat on it during the duration of the examinations.

 

       The strictness may also be a reason why the drop- out rate has been so high this year,” he said. Education minister Rangnath Mishra said: “ Till date, the government was taken for granted. When Kalyan Singh was the chief minister he had tried to control cheating but failed because the teachers and students resisted his efforts. But this government is made of sterner stuff.”

 

        Expressing the government’s determination to clean up the education system, Mishra said, “ In the last three days, over three dozen school managers have been booked and half a dozen teachers or school employees have been arrested for helping students cheat. Some have been suspended.”

 

       Mishra said while around 46.5 lakh students appeared on the first day of Class X and XII examinations on March 4, the number dipped to 45 lakh the next day. On March 6, the day the Hindi test was held, only 43 lakh wrote their papers. On March 25, when English- I test will be held, as few as 39 lakh students may turn up, he said. “ Given that we have cracked down on cheating very harshly this time, it’s expected that students who are not prepared will develop a phobia and stay away from the examination hall,” he added.

 

      But even he could not explain why Hindi should be on the dreaded list with English and maths in the Hindi belt. piyush. srivastava@ mailtoday. in

 

       A committee will probe the trend to skip exams By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow 3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP Absenteeism rises in Class X & XII board exams NOT HONEST ENOUGH? Strict measures taken by UP to pre- empt cheating may have scared many students away.

 

UK: Illiteracy in UK

        Illiteracy in UK More than a million adult Britons have a standard of literacy no better than that of a seven-year-old. For them, reading road signs, writing their names or understanding instructions on pill bottles is a hardship. Anuskha Asthana reports on how beating illiteracy can cut poverty and restore dignity 

       By the time he was 32 and had hung up his boots, Scott Quinnell had played rugby union for Llanelli 146 times, captained Wales, gained 52 caps and scored 11 international tries. He had even been chosen to play for the British Lions in Australia in 2001.

         Yet on the day that he decided to retire, Quinnell – an undisputed Welsh hero – still only had the reading age of a seven-year-old. His writing and spelling were also poor, meaning that his wife had to fill in cheques for him. On more than one occasion fans threw autographs back in anger.

      When the sports star decided to tackle the first book in the Harry Potter series, in his late twenties, it took him two months to complete the 223 pages.This week Quinnell will become one of the leading figures of a major campaign aimed at helping the millions of adults in Britain who are barely literate to read for pleasure. He will tell his story in a book that he wrote himself after being treated for severe dyslexia. .The campaign comes as new research reveals that teaching the country’s illiterate parents to read will transform the futures of millions of children.

      It was Quinnell’s two children, Lucy, 11, and Steele, nine, who were also dyslexic, that made him want to change his life. ‘I did not want them to go through the same experiences as me, going to their bedroom at night and crying because they were different to everyone else,’ he said. ‘I struggled at school – it was a frustrating time. If you are called lazy and stupid often enough you start to believe it. I was lucky I had sport. I found out I was dyslexic when I was 21, but I did not do anything. I just kept playing.’     

       Not so for millions of others. There are 1.1 million adults in England with a reading age lower than that of a typical seven-year-old.

     For them, reading road signs, taking in the instructions on a medicine bottle or simply writing their name is a hardship. Many try to hide their lack of ability, even from partners or children, often claiming to have forgotten non-existent glasses. When those whose literacy is so poor they could not keep up with an average 11-year-old are taken into account, the number rises to 5.2 million, or almost one in six of all 16- to 65-year-olds. The figures are also high in Wales and Scotland.      Others are more sceptical about efforts being made in schools. ‘People who do not learn the basics end up doing the same thing over and over again,’ said Dr Bethan Marshall, an academic at King’s College London.

      ‘They are taught in exactly the same way again. Then they are identified as the children who are failing,’ she added. ‘Increasingly children are set by ability, and these children are always in the bottom set because they cannot read or write. They might be good at some things but because of that they are cast as irredeemably stupid.’ 

            For her fellow author, Quinnell, reading was something he never even tried until his late 20s, and when he did ‘my eyes would get tired and I would miss paragraphs’, he said. Things have changed dramatically. When the rugby star decided to try Harry Potter again, he finished the last one in the series – which has 607 pages .

  • Anuskha Asthana
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