Visiting Kerala and Laubach Literacy Education Trust (LLET)
Women gather outside for their adult literacy class organized by ProLiteracy’s partner in Kerala, India Laubach Literacy Education Trust (LLET).
After visiting Yuvaparivartan in Tamil Nadu, we drove 10.5 hours from Coonoor to a small city outside of Kochi called Karthikappally. Our partner Laubach Literacy Education Trust (LLET) has been working in the state of Kerala since 1958. Their founder, Dr. A.K. John was deeply influenced by one of ProLiteracy’s founders, Dr. Frank Laubach, his methodology regarding literacy, and his message “each one teach one.” After completing a doctoral degree in Syracuse, he returned to his community with a commitment to tackle illiteracy. At that time, more than 350 million Indians lacked literacy skills in a country with 18 official languages. To make matters worse, Kerala (India’s smallest state) had a population density three times the national average, and a majority of its residents were unemployed, malnourished and living in poverty. The early work of Laubach Literacy Educational Trust was groundbreaking. It set the stage for subsequent adult education efforts by both the University of Kerala and the Government of Kerala State. LLET deserves much credit for the adult literacy rate in Kerala that now approaches 100 percent—the highest rate of all Indian states.
Over the past fifty-eight years, LLET has produced a robust program model of recruiting and training literacy teachers. After a training period, these women and men return to their villages surrounding Karthicappally and spend the next ten months giving daily lessons in reading, writing and math to at least 20 adults, many of whom never attended school. Nearly 95 percent of LLET-trained teachers are women. During our site visit we had the opportunity speak with several of the teachers and they expressed that being a literacy instructor not only allows them to join the ranks of a highly respected profession, but they see themselves as role models for women learners—many of whom are mothers who will experience the value of learning and ensure their own daughters attend school.
One teacher we met during our trip was Mrs. Chelymasomn, an instructor in LLET’s literacy and vocational programs that has helped more than 4,000 women. Mrs. Chelymasomn started teaching in 1999 and has helped women overcome both learning and social obstacles. She is one of many wonderful teachers who serve learners in LLET’s programs every day.
Two women happily weave coir rope as part of an income generating project organized by LLET for learners who graduate from basic literacy courses and want to learn vocational skills.
In addition to adult literacy classes, LLET offers vocational classes that teach income generating skills such as typing, bookkeeping, tailoring, machine embroidery and coir making. We visited a coir making unit with two women who had graduated from LLET’s vocational program and today have a business weaving coir rope. Coir is made out of crushed coconut shells and woven tightly into rope. Six strands of coir are sold for roughly 6 rupees and the rope is then distributed to various shops/stores.
LLET graduates who go on to pass government exams can then earn a certification and can become eligible for civil service positions, jobs in industry or loans to launch small businesses.
For tens of thousands of Kerala’s poor, the literacy and vocational skills learned through LLET have proven to be the routes to increased incomes, improved family nutrition and sanitation, and greater status and influence in the community.