We see literacy as a medium through which marginalized communities can try to regain control of their lives, and negotiate with the world. Most of what is written of the working classes is by people from another class and the “higher” castes. The absence of written language has been used to push people down for generations now.
In Muskaan, our experience has been that literacy is really not a tough skill to crack as long as one is able to give it adequate time. So if children are able to come regularly for a year, they usually learn to read and write. An older child starts engaging with texts even within a stretch of a three months residential camp.
We start with story telling in the early childhood centres and then slowly introduce books. Children whose parents have never been to school don’t know that one reads left to right and top to bottom, which a child from a middle class family would learn unconsciously when she looks at her father reading a newspaper or when her mother reads out a story to her and flips through the pages and in pre-school. These small differences are not so small; this is just one example, but everyday, the process of marginalization just becomes deeper and deeper. The marginalization takes place sometimes actively by us, sometimes by our inertness, sometimes by not thinking enough because that would be challenging our existence and requires us to change the ways we think, act and live.