Rekindling the joy of learning
After a successful run at the Kathua Prison in Jammu and Kashmir, TCS’ Adult Literacy Program reaches the Bhaderwah Jail situated in the historical fort of Bhaderwah at Qilla Mohalla in India’s Jammu and Kashmir. An articulate man in his forties introduces himself as Asif Mohammad* and excitedly announces to his fellow inmates at Bhaderwah that he will be their ‘Prerak’ (trainer) for the program awaiting them.
An ALP Prerak is one who has studied at least up to secondary level (Class-X) and is found to be keen and motivated, with leadership qualities. The person is drafted from the same community as that of the ALP trainees so that they are not an unknown face for the learners.
Train the trainer
Asif became a trainer after undergoing a two-day training in running an ALP center, through the virtually conducted Train-the-Trainer (TTT) initiative on 24th and 25th November 2021. The training included facilitation of lessons, preparation, and mock sessions, among other modules. The program homed in on Asif as he had completed his post-graduation degree in Zoology.
“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,” Asif recalled why he readily agreed to volunteer.
Joining hands with Asif in the training is 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 are undertaking most of the training activities, accompanying them is another trainer-volunteer, Siddique Ahmed*. “Literacy is light. It can change society,” he said. Asif wears the hat of ‘Master Trainer’ out of the three.
Scaling the initiative’s impact
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.”
The Bhaderwah initiative is a ripple effect of TCS’ successful engagement earlier at Kathua in 2019 where sizeable inmates became literate. It was Mushtaq Malla, the jail superintendent, who planted the seeds of education reforms at Kathua earlier. Now, he is on the path of scaling it up at Bhaderwah Prison in the capacity of Superintendent.
A learner is taught to read through a combination of graphics, sound patterns, and language structure.
How we do it
Mushtaq is a strong champion and ambassador of the TCS Adult Literacy Program as 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 traditional blackboard teaching.
The previous batches registered 100% attendance as well as literacy rate, which itself speaks for the efficacy of the program. ALP harnesses the potential of the digitally empowered functional literacy solution developed by TCS. A learner is taught to read through a combination of graphics, sound patterns, and language structure. It works by leveraging the theory of cognition and laws of perception, 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.
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). The efforts are having the desired bearing on Reformation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (3Rs), which are the mission of India’s correctional homes. The program is thus an enabler for the moral and educational development of inmates.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of inmates.