Nilambur Gram Panchayat in Kerala stands out as a role model for lakhs of villages, as it is the first village to achieve total primary education in the country.
The admirable feat by the village in Malappuram district came about in just nine months, thanks to the systematic and persistent efforts of the Gram Panchayat.
In an interaction with a visiting team of journalists, the Sarpanch of the village, Aryadan Shoukat, said the need for making people educated was felt as illiteracy had been identified as one of the main reasons for the backwardness of the people.
To know the status of the village in various development parametres, a detailed survey was conducted on January 26, 2006, he said.
About 1,500 volunteers collected the data from about 8,500 houses in the village and the survey revealed that more than 1,500 people of the Gram Panchayat were either illiterate or educated below 4th standard.
Among the 1,500 people, 1,000 were found to be either illiterate or semi-literate and 500 were educated below 4th standard, Shoukat said.
Realising that the existing literacy programmes being conducted by the state government agencies were inadequate, the Gram Panchayat launched a scheme named 'Jyotirgamaya' to achieve total primary education in cooperation with the Kerala State Literacy Mission.
To start with, the Panchayat appointed facilitators and a handbook was prepared as per the syllabus of the state literacy mission, Shoukat said.
Workshops were conducted to motivate the people and an academic committee, a monitoring committee and ward-level committees were formed, he said.
As 80 per cent of the learners were found to be suffering from eye defects, eye camps were conducted to treat them. Not only this, cultural programmes were conducted to inspire the learners. A study tour to nearby Calicut was also organised.
It took nine months to attain primary level, Shoukat said.
After conducting internal tests, external evaluations were conducted by the state literacy mission and Calicut University to judge what the learners had learnt, he said.
State Governor R L Bhatia, who visited the village last month, declared that the village had achieved total primary education.
Asked about the difficulties faced in the process of educating the adults, the Sarpanch said a man threatened had his mother not to attend the classes but the issue was solved by persuasion.
Interestingly, the Panchayat office personnel use a laptop while receiving various petitions from the people.
The governing body of the Panchayat has ambitious plans for the development of the village, including constructing 1,000 houses for the poor and launching a medical scheme for the old, Shoukat added.