Back-a-thon – A Fight Against Illiteracy

Treading on the 13th year of life, Devi has taken a liking to reading. Until a year ago she had never read a book, just heard stories from her “didi”. Now she can not only read but also understand and analyse the language. It took some time, but having reached this position, Devi’s world has undergone a massive change.

At 11, Prem; a taciturn boy raises his hand in his class to answer questions one after the other.

At 20, Jobish a young lad from Cochin boards a flight to United States for a community college after 5 years. He can now easily communicate in English and is excited about what he wants to do in life. He comes back to his shelter home and motivates his old house mates to learn, to read, to study, to be educated.

Eight years back when Make A Difference started in Cochin, Jobish was one of the first kids to enroll in the then English Project. It took him around 5 years to learn how to speak, read or write in English. Cut to the present, he is now back in India after attending college in the US and is a part of the ‘Discover’ Project, run by Make A Difference itself, that guide children to make informed career decisions. Like Prem and Devi, he is the ‘change’, along with several others.

When I started teaching Prem he spoke or participated in class because he was worried of being judged, of what people would think about him. He was afraid.

This fear operating in Prem’s mind manifests itself strongly in statistical data compiled over the years. According to a census report prepared in 2011, even though India’s literacy rate has jumped from 12% to 74.04% since independence , sixty-seven years and still the level is much below a global average, which stands at 84%. Quite alarming, isn’t it? How many years are you ready to wait and watch, or are you going to do something about it?

MAD was founded with only one cause in its heart-to empower children with the tool of education, so that they can achieve equitable outcomes. Eight years down the line I see that happening, but is it enough? No, not at all. Out of 440 million children in India, 176 million children are in urgent need of care and protection. Till now we have been able to reach out to about 5000 children across the country. However, thousands of them are still waiting for people like us to give them the chance they deserve.

Martin Luther King Jr said “Change doesn’t roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

On September 8th, we at Make A Difference observe International Literacy Day in our own unique way- we hold a Back-a-thon, in which we raise our voice against illiteracy by walking backwards upholding the message of ‘PUSHING ILLITERACY BACK’. A community of young, passionate, enthusiasts walking the change with an aim to spread the message of literacy and to create a positive change in this society.

Last year more than 2000 people in 18 cities pushed illiteracy back. I felt empowered; the voices shouting out the slogan, “I Choose to be MAD”still rings in my ears. The passion with which everyone who walked with me for the cause that day in Chennai, all 350 of them, is the reason behind me waking up motivated every single day, to dedicate myself completely to the cause I believe in, to be the change that I want to see. This year the chance is yours.


Back-a-thon: Pushing Illiteracy Back

An event to raise literacy awareness by symbolically walking backwards on September 8 i.e. International Literacy Day. To know more please visit: Back-a-thon ’14


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  1. yamuna mohan says

    Well done Koundinya,

    It is as important to communicate about such initiatives for maximum participation. All the best and God bless.

  2. ayushi says

    Plz tell the place for Gwalior as we students are confused about timings for back a thon todaytoday. I need a reply as fast as u can

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