India: a Right to Learn

Juan Grajales is currently located in Odisha India and on behalf of the World Literacy Foundation he is collecting research data on issues relating to literacy in the region.

Odisha is one of the poorest states in India. A densely populated region with limited food, water and educational resources. These challenges and issues are becoming more prevalent in the region. With limited access to educational resources, children are vulnerable to labour exploitation, early marriage, abuse and intergenerational poverty.

According to UNICEF, 11.9 million children in India between ages 6-13 are not in school. Those living in rural areas and communities are less likely to be attending school. The sufficient educational resources are not available to children living in rural areas, marginalizing them out of the mainstream school system in India. More so, poverty, cultural traditions and family values are rejecting their attendance to school. Without the necessary literacy and numeracy skills, poverty may remain widespread and inevitable.


The Realities

Suban is five years, and his brother Krishna is three years old. They live in Gopalpur, a small, rural community in the Odisha state, India. In Gopalpur, many children and youth do not have their own books to read or appropriate learning materials.

Everyday, Suban is faced with the challenge of finding books and educational resources in his village. He hopes one day he can achieve his dreams of becoming a doctor and helping the people in his village. However, without any educational resources, Suban is likely to drop out of school and help his family in the fields. This is a common issue in many rural communities in Odisha. Many classrooms are lacking the educational resources children like Suban, need and desire for.

Suban is one of the thousands trapped along a poverty chain in Odisha. The limited amount of educational resources available in his school and books to read in his village are hindering his opportunities at becoming a doctor.

Education is a basic human right, right? As children are being pulled out from school to the support their family, their right to education is being violated. More so, their hopes, dreams and aspirations are being dismissed.

Every child, regardless of where they were born, the situation they were born into, deserves the opportunity to learn. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 outlines “education is the sustainable base for improving people’s lives”. We believe, education is one of the most powerful tools for eradicating poverty, injustice and inequality. Without education, a child or community can not develop and grow.

The World Literacy Foundation aims to advocate for better global literacy standards. We envision in a world in which every one of us can read and write, in which there is free access to education for all.


The Solution

Over the past month, we have been visiting the rural communities in Odisha, India. The demand for educational materials are more apparent than ever. We have been distributing books to children. But now, we believe that blending traditional learning methods with digital tools will provide a greater outreach and impact.

We postulate that implementing a low-cost, solar panel tablet designed for ‘off the grid’  classrooms is the most valuable solution for decreasing India’s illiteracy rates. A tablet with preloaded educational content and a digital library has the ability to transform India’s classrooms, especially those among rural areas. An educational tablet has the potential to bridge the literacy gap in India and in many other developing countries.

One educational tablet costs $170. That’s all it costs to provide 20,000 digital books for one classroom in India.That’s all it costs to support 30 children for a hopeful future. That’s all it costs to prevent 30 children from entering a cycle of illegal exploitation, abuse and poverty.

Ensuring all children have the right to education can only be achieved through joint collaboration. The World Literacy Foundation invites others to join us in achieving this sustainable development goal in providing quality education to all. Let’s make sure that children can have access to sufficient educational materials.

Written by Jamie-Lee Kay