Kindling the Joy of Learning in Bhaderwah Prison
At the Bhaderwah Jail situated in the historical fort of Bhaderwah at Qilla Mohalla in Jammu and Kashmir, an articulate man in his forties introduces himself as Asif Mohammad*. His face lights up, and his voice was filled with excitement when he announced to his fellow inmates that he will be their ‘Prerak’ (trainer) for the TCS’ Adult Literacy Program awaiting them.
Asif emerged after undergoing a two-day training himself. He attended all sessions in the fold of Train-the-Trainer (TTT) initiative on 24th and 25th November 2021. It was virtually conducted by TCS. And, the TTT began: The thrust was on how to run an ALP centre. This included facilitation of lessons, preparation, general information, and mock sessions, among others modules.
The program homed in on Asif as he had completed his Post Graduation in Zoology. Asif needed to agree to be a volunteer-trainer, which he readily did.
An ALP Prerak is one who has studied minimum up to secondary level (Class-X) and is found to be keen, motivated with leadership qualities. The person is drafted from the same community as that of the ALP trainees so that he/she is not an unknown face to for the learners.
“I noticed that most of the inmates were illiterate and could not even write their names. They would always be looking for help to fill up forms and other documents,” he recalled.
Joining hands with Asif in the training was another inmate, Anil Kumar*, a graduate. Anil said, “Illiteracy is a curse and the program is a great opportunity for everyone here.” He was euphoric: “I have at last found a platform within these four walls to share my knowledge within my community here. The residents here will not remain illiterate any longer.”
While Asif and Anil undertook most of the training activities, accompanying them was another trainer-volunteer, Siddique Ahmed*. “Literacy is light. It can change the society,” he said. Asif donned the hat of ‘Master Trainer” out of the three.
Echoing the master trainer’s words, the jail superintendent, Mushtaq Malla expressed , “I am very happy to join this forum. We started this program in Kathua prison in Jammu and I hope we can successfully run the program at Bhaderwah as well with the help of these educated inmates.”
TCS implemented the program at Kathua Prison in 2019. It was Mushtaq Malla, the jail superintendent, at the same prison earlier, who planted the seeds of education reforms. Now he is on the path of scaling it up at Bhaderwah Prison in the capacity of Superintendent. The Bhaderwah initiative is a ripple effect of TCS’ successful engagement earlier at Kathua where sizeable inmates became literate.
Mushtaq is a strong champion and ambassador of the TCS Adult Literacy Program. He feels that ALP has been deeply ingrained into the inmates’ daily lives. It works because the software used is intuitive and makes it easy for learners to recognize , retain and recall concepts.
The method is simple, interactive and different from the traditional black board teaching. Learners are taught to recognize the words they speak. The previous batches registered 100% attendance as well as literacy rate, this speaks for the efficacy of the program. Its an enabler for the moral and educational development of the inmates.
This was possible as ALP harnesses the potential of the digitally empowered functional literacy solution developed in-house by TCS. A learner is taught to read through a combination of graphics, sound patterns, language structure. It works leveraging theory of cognition and laws of perception also on the premise that the adults know the sounds of words and the things that they denote, and they need to connect spoken words to written graphics.
Truly, the trio--- Asif, Anil and Siddique---backed by their Superintendent have become the torch bearers of change, spreading the joy of learning Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic (3Rs). Its having the desired bearing on Reformation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (3Rs) which is the mission & vision of India’s correctional homes. All this, to bring about positivity in its environment.
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* names have been changed to protect the identities of inmates.