Ten-day Crash Adult Literacy Programme

Country Profile: India


1,210,193,422 (2011 census)

Poverty (population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

42% (2005)

Official languages

Hindi and English

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP


Primary school net enrolment / attendance ratio (2005–2010)


Primary school completion rate


Total youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2005 – 2010)
  • Female: 74%
  • Male: 88%
  • Total: 81%
Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2005 – 2010)
  • Female: 51%
  • Male: 75%
  • Total: 63%
Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleTen-day Crash Adult Literacy Programme
Implementing OrganizationLaya Resource Center, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
Language of InstructionTelugu
FundingKatholishe Zentralstelle fur Entwicklungshilfe e.V (MISEREOR), Germany
Programme PartnersVanaja and Vikasini (Community Based Organizations of Tribal Women)
Annual Programme CostsUSD $3,226. Annual Programme Cost per Learner: USD $129
Date of Inception2004

Context and Background

India covers an area of 3,287,263 square kilometres extending from the Himalayas to the tropical rain forests of the south. It is divided into 28 states and 7 union territories (UNESCO 2006, as cited in UNESCO 2014). The country has a population of approximately 1.2 billion and an annual population growth of 1.3 % (UIS 2013). India’s economy has improved significantly in recent years. According to the World Bank (2015), life expectancy has more than doubled since independence in 1947. Literacy rates have quadrupled and health conditions have improved. Nevertheless, more than 400 million still live in poverty and those who have been able to escape poverty are highly vulnerable to falling back. Even though primary education has largely been universalized, learning outcomes remain low. Fewer than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education (World Bank, 2015). The importance of fostering quality education and literacy skills in the country cannot be overstated.

Nevertheless, the growth of literacy in India in recent decades has been impressive. In 1901, only about 5% of the Indian population was literate. This number increased to around 16% in 1950 and rose to 65.38% in 2001. In 2006, the total adult literacy rate reached 62.3 % and the total youth literacy rate was 81.1%. However, in spite of the impressive progress in literacy rates, India is still home to 300.14 million adults and children living without adequate literacy skills. This includes 191.93 million women (63.95%) (UNESCO, 2006). The literacy rate is especially low among rural and tribal communities. As a result, many of these communities have been unable to participate in the socio-economic development of the country. There is a dire need for programmes to further enhance literacy skills among rural and tribal communities.

Implementing Organization

The major activities of the Laya Resource Center, located at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh region, focus on the empowerment of tribal communities for the assertion of their rights and the promotion of relevant, sustainable economic alternatives at the grassroots level. The Laya Resource Center supports marginalized communities in securing their livelihood and assists learners in accessing and controlling their own land, forest and water resources. The empowerment process is conducted in an interactive way so tribal communities can actively participate in local governance. Empowerment is pursued through alternative education processes working within the contexts of natural resource management, herbal based health care and micro-enterprises. This alternative educational approach has been drawn from the experiences of the tribal youth in the region who were campaigning against the state government’s repeal of a favourable land reform in 1989. Since then, Laya has developed training programmes that provide the tribal youth with skills to tackle injustices in their communities and enable them to gain a deeper understanding of the macro and micro level contexts of their communities. Innovative training curricula and methods are used in a variety of programmes. These include mock courts where trainees can practice their legal skills and working with herbal-based community health care trainings where traditional medicine is promoted.

Programme overview

The main objective of the programme is to respond to the needs of motivated tribal women and men learners who hold some position of decision making in local bodies but are without literacy skills and must depend on others to read.


The first residential 10-day crash literacy programme was established in 2004 to meet the needs of tribal women and men leaders in the tribal region of North Andhra Pradesh, India. The programme has since sought to assist people who hold a position of decision making in local bodies with the basic literacy skills they need to perform as effective leaders. From 2004 to 2008, the crash literacy programme has especially targeted potential women leaders who were elected members of local governance bodies or other institutions such as self-help groups (SHG) and community based organizations (CBOs). In 2008, the programme was extended to include male farmers as well. Currently, the participants are mainly from Visakhapatnam and the East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh with some outreach to Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.The participants belong to various communities and the main age level is between 18 and 35 years. This age group has a very large number of adults with low literacy skills because access to formal education in tribal areas was very limited a decade ago. Nevertheless, a large proportion of the women and men in this age group have had at least some exposure to literacy since there have been attempts at literacy training by the government or voluntary agencies in the region.

The literacy programmes are located in Laya’s training centers in the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts. Learners are therefore free from the responsibility of managing domestic work and can concentrate on literacy skills throughout the training period. They pay a registration fee of USD $0.32 as a demonstration of their commitment to the programme and to help ensure their participation. From 2004 until the time of writing, 18 programmes have reached around 509 women and 161 men (7 of these 18 were for farmers, both male and female). In the future, the programme aims to reach about 200 women in 100 villages through four training programmes per year. While the Laya Resource Center’s literacy programme enables learners to acquire the knowledge, skills and values necessary for being responsible citizens, it also supports them in shaping their own path of development and has had a positive impact on the self-esteem and confidence of the participants, especially on tribal women who have leadership roles in their community. In addition, the programme provides an opportunity for participants to engage in lifelong learning on practical aspects of their daily life, as discussed below.


Programme Implementation

Learning Approach

The duration of the literacy programme is seventy hours over a ten day period. Experiences of various organizations involved in literacy initiatives show that 10 days can be considered the minimum for learners to develop basic reading and numeracy skills. However, follow up initiatives at least six months later are also offered to create learning opportunities for further development of learners’ literacy and numeracy skills. The follow up activities are mainly at village-based Community Learning Centres (CLCs) where opportunities for continuing reading and writing skill development are available with the assistance of Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Follow up activities are also available through an annual three day refresher programme. Some participants from past programmes are invited during the last two days of each literacy programme to share their experiences as well as to brush up their own literacy skills.

In order to create a positive environment for learning literacy, the members of the Laya Resource Centre begin with an initial exercise to identify conditions to enhance the learners’ progress. Examples of this initial exercise include identifying:

Through this initial exercise, a key insight has emerged. It was noted that it was necessary to create a positive learning environment in order to be successful in teaching literacy. That participants speak Telugu and the fact that Telugu is a phonetic language also help to make this approach feasible. The Telugu language comprises four basic elements in a combination of alphabets and symbols: atchulu (vowels), halulu (consonants), guninthalu (combination of vowels and consonants) and vothulu (symbols for vowels and consonants). The first two elements have to be mastered before the third and the fourth element can be learned. Ultimately, all four elements have to be learned before being able to read Telugu. Numeracy skills are taught simultaneously because of its importance in everyday use.

A Typical Day


A typical day’s session begins with a lesson in which words are selected from the context of learners’ lives and then these words are depicted visually. Learners are encouraged to repeat the vowels aloud and then practice writing them. Their attention is then drawn to consonants and they are encouraged to practice writing them. The same process is applied to learning the combination of vowels and consonants as well as their corresponding visual symbols. This process also involves telling simple stories where the words they have learned reoccur and are reinforced. They are then asked to identify these words and write them on their slates or notebooks.

Each lesson also involves teaching numeracy related to reading time, weight, measurements and simple calculations related to money and wage payment. In between the lessons, learners are engaged in sharing their own experiences related to literacy. These can include singing songs or engaging in energizers and simulation games. Sessions are typically organized around themes such as personal hygiene, health, the use of herbal medicine, kitchen gardens, organic farming, government schemes, protective legislations, leadership qualities. Cultural activities are often organised after dinner. These can include singing folk songs, dances, sharing different tribal customs and street plays. During these sessions, the trainers also teach socially relevant songs on, for example, the importance of literacy, women’s empowerment, unity, and thrift, among other topics. In addition, participants are encouraged to develop other basic skills relevant to their daily life experience. In these cases, learning materials consist of letter cards, charts of the Telugu alphabet, vowels and consonants, as well as photographs and video documentaries depicting the local life situation of learners. Most of these materials were developed by Laya Resource Centre. However, the flagship programme on literacy education Read India, which was developed by the national NGO Pratham, was adapted to the local context and is also used by the trainers. It includes letters, words, stories, and picture cards.

Different principles continuously guide our lessons:



The trainers are young literate tribal enthusiasts who are assisted by resource persons and a lead trainer from the Laya team. The trainers are activists in the region and are familiar with the issues in the area. At present, there are twelve tribal trainers, all female. A team of six is selected from the twelve to be engaged in a training programme, using the following criteria. The six will have completed secondary level education and should have attended at least one of Laya’s training programmes. Other qualities considered in their selection include an ability to communicate and patience. They are paid two US dollars a day.

In the initial stage following the identification of a team of potential trainers, a two-phased workshop of two days is organised by Laya to develop a convergent perspective within the team and outline learning goals, desired outcomes and discuss the process of the upcoming ten day literacy training programme. The first challenge is to develop the skills and confidence of the trainers. This is facilitated by encouraging reflections on the potential of tribal women learners during past intermittent workshops. The following were examples of insights that have emerged during those discussions:

Subsequently, new trainers have been recruited and oriented keeping the above insights and principles in mind. They are also expected to attend at least one programme as apprentice-trainers before they are engaged as trainers.


Selecting learners is the most important aspect of the entire training process. The key criteria for selection include age (eighteen to thirty-five), family support,and occupational relevance. However, motivation to learn is the most important criterion. Learners are informed of what is expected from them at the outset, including the time commitment. A high level of motivation is typically demonstrated by a majority of the learners during the training process. This is evidenced by the degree of self-learning that takes place during the period and the kind of effort that the learners put in. The Community Learning Centres (CLCs) based in seventeen villages provide an opportunity for motivated learners to enlist for the ten day crash literacy programme. Laya also envisages the role of learners as motivators for literacy learning in their own villages and is now experiencing the strategic value of follow up literacy programmes and lifelong learning.

As noted earlier, participants are exposed to literature and learn how governmental social security schemes function. They also learn about basic personal hygiene and sanitation, herbal based health care, about kitchen gardens, the efficient functioning of fuel wood cook stoves, about potable water from bio-sand water filters and the use of solar lanterns, among other topics. The programme is residential but the venues are the training centres of Laya Resource Centre located in the tribal area. Again this structure enables the trainees to be free from the responsibility of having to manage domestic duties and, as a result, they can fully concentrate on literacy skills development throughout the training period.


Assessment of learning outcomes

Learners are assessed using a check-list to assess their levels of literacy skills at the beginning of day one. This includes their ability to sign their name, read vowels and consonants, and other basic skills. The learning goals of each participant are also identified at this time and they are then placed in learning groups at four different levels with their assigned trainers, Learners are also informally assessed on an individual basis at the end of each day in the review meeting of the trainers. Finally, on day ten, they are assessed using the same initial check-list. They are also assessed later on a periodic basis at the Community Learning Centres and at end of the three day Refresher Literacy Training Programme held six months after the 10-day Crash Literacy Programme.

Monitoring and evaluation of the programme

Although the main focus is the ten day crash literacy programme, in fact, the Laya Resource Center‘s responsibility is to follow up on the newly literate participants six months later with our three day refresher programme. In between these times, they are assisted at the village based Community Learning Centres.

The learners are closely monitored during the entire programme using a check-list of progress markers. The trainers’ performance is also assessed during both the 10-day crash literacy programme and the three day refresher programme. The accompaniment at the CLC, which is carried out with the assistance of Community Based Groups, is also monitored to assess progress of the new literates as well as the role of the Community Based Organizations (CBO).

Impact and Challenges


By the end of the ten day period, almost all learners (90%) can read and write some words. About 60% of the participants can read simple sentences and half of them are able to read simple stories. In the case of numeracy skills—introduced more specifically in the last few training programmes—participants are able to read and write numbers and do simple calculations. There is also a tangible increase in self-esteem and confidence among the tribal women, particularly as they perform their leadership roles in the community. Several of them are currently asserting themselves on local socio-economic and environmental issues and some have been elected for different posts in their local self-governments.

Challenges and lessons learned

The major challenge facing the Laya Resource Center is the ability of the learners to commit ten days to be away from their village. Learners’ spouses are often unwilling to let them attend the ten day programme as they often do not understand the value of the programme or are unwilling to take on the domestic responsibility in their absence. The other major challenge is trying to retain the learners for ten days because some feel homesick and leave.

A number of key lessons have been learned.



In terms of sustainability, there is an ongoing need to make the programme contextually relevant if it is to be useful. The programme offers basic principles of teaching foundational literacy which can be used meaningfully by civil society organizations and the government to upscale efforts to teach literacy —especially women—in different contexts. Since we now have live testimonies of newly literate tribal women in two districts of the state, we are planning to explore the possibilities of initiating this programme in another two districts.

Following is an example of a learner testimony. As Marigela Narasamma has stated:

I faced a lot of difficulties in performing my role as a Community Health Worker (CHW) and as President, Women Thrift Group in my village due to being illiterate. I used to depend on others to prepare my monthly report of CHW and used to identify tablets by their colour to give them to the patients. I was not in a position to understand the financial transactions in the thrift group and was very afraid to talk in the group. Through a relative, I heard about the 10-day literacy programme which was being conducted by Laya. I was determined to learn literacy at any cost. So I convinced my husband and participated in the 10-day literacy programme in 2005, at ‘Vanantharam’, Laya’s training centre, Addateegala. During this programme, I learnt to analyse different village level issues in addition to literacy. As a part of this programme different exercises and assignments were given which helped me very much to avoid my internal fear to talk with others in public. By the end of the programme I learnt reading and writing, my fear has gone and I was confident to talk and deal with others including government officials. After the programme, Laya staff selected me as a NRM (Natural Resources Management) activist for our area, Boddagandi Panchayat. As a NRM activist I developed good relations with all the people of this Panchayat. In 2014 with the support of my Boddagandi Panchayat community, I run in Panchayat elections and was elected as a President of the Panchayat. One thing I can say, a good change has come through this 10-day literacy training program in my life.



Dr. Nafisa Goga D’Souza
Executive Director
Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Last update: 7 October 2015