Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), an NGO in Malappuram district, sponsored by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy, has bagged the prestigious UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, for its literacy-linked skill development activities. The Sansthan that was set up in 2006 comes under the aegis of Nilambur Muslim Orphanage Committee and has gained recognition for a series of vocational training, awareness classes, and other activities.
Apart from implementing various projects launched by the Ministry, JSS also operates various innovative initiatives; beneficiaries of which are tribes, differently abled and economically backward sections in the coastal area of Kerala.
Explaining the activities of JSS, Deepa C., assistant programme coordinator, says, “As much as 95 per cent of our beneficiaries are women who are illiterate and struggle to find a means of livelihood. We conduct field visits and prepare the kind of schemes that are required to promote the backward sections. We also take extra care that these people learn a skill, so that they can use it to earn their livelihood.”
She added that literacy does not mean having the knowledge of reading.
“In terms of literacy, our State has already reached the highest level. However, this issue is much above that. There are thousands of women and children in the Scheduled Tribe category who do not have even basic education. And some of them who have basic education have no idea about the world outside. Our aim is to conduct awareness classes for these people and bring them out of their comfort zone into the realities of society,” she added
One of the successful schemes of JSS, to promote literacy for those who cannot afford to acquire education, is ‘Vidya’. In this scheme, a device called talking pen has been used, which reproduces the sound of the written word. They have also introduced modern technology and have a mobile computer lab and an LCD projector, which have attracted even those who were earlier reluctant towards educational programmes.
Sparsham, a scheme for the differently abled, has also helped many people of this category to achieve a means of earning. Under the scheme, JSS provides skill development training in making file pad, soap, chalk, candle, paper cover, medicine cover, artificial flowers, squashes, and jam, free of cost, to groups that are specially challenged. After completion of the training, the beneficiaries have also started a production unit named after Sparsham. JSS is also responsible for providing market linkage for these products with the support of the district administration.
Apart from this, the Sansthan also conducts various classes in schools to promote the importance of personal hygiene among school children. A scheme for the same has also been launched by JSS.
Despite being a new entrant into the field, the NGO has also received a couple of other awards, which includes the Saakshar Bharat Award under National Literacy Mission in 2014. The award was received by JSS Mallapuram chairman and Rajya Sabha member P.V. Abdul Wahab and the unit’s director V. Ummerkoya at a ceremony in Paris that also marked the 50th anniversary celebrations of UNESCO’s literacy programmes. As the prize money for the award is provided by the Chinese government, the director and the chairman are presently in China to attend the felicitation ceremony.
Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) are non-formal adult vocational education institutions located in rural and urban areas throughout India. By imparting vocational and life skills training, JSS centres seek to improve the quality of life of their participants, adults aged between 14 and 55 years, who enter JSS programmes without literacy skills or as newly-literate learners.