India: Day Six
The literacy class tonight was really cool. It was inspiring to see so many women becoming empowered to read and live without fear.
Before they came to the literacy class, these women were basically invisible in their society - they aren't valued for the important job they do raising their children and keeping a home. In fact, they are too often treated more like servants than mothers and wives.
It's so sad that parents don't even think it's worth teaching their daughters to read and write - that it's a waste of money!
I could never imagine thinking that my own daughter wasn't worth educating...
This simply reminds me that what God is doing in India is so important. To value each and every human being as important in the sight of God - and therefore important in our sight - truly reminds me of how great we have it.
One of the sayings they teach the women is "Stop Borrowing - Start Saving." It was very interesting to watch the portion of the literacy class focused on savings.
The way it works is that every night when they come to class, the women are invited to deposit whatever they can save into a jar (it is totally voluntary). Every day the literacy teacher records what each woman deposits, often just a few paise coins, which are worth less than a penny. At the end of the literacy class, the women are then given back their money.
Over the year-long class, some of them have saved up to 400, 600, maybe even 1,000 rupees. [$10, $15, and $25 respectively.] Some of them have never held this much money (remember, most families are earning less than $1.25 a day!). It teaches them that no matter how poor they are, they can save. They don't have to be in debt; they don't have to be in over their heads. It is a lesson we in America need to learn just as much.
It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 13:8, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for those who love have fulfilled the law."
Today you got to experience an Adult Literacy Class and hear how the program is impacting women and their families.
Click on the photos below for more behind-the-scenes pictures from today's episode!
Blind No More
Today's memory verse: "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness...to open eyes that are blind..." (Isaiah 42:6a,7a)
"Because that's just the way it is..."
Have you ever heard that before? Sometimes parents say it when we ask "Why?" too many times. It is not good to ask "Why?" when we really mean, "No, I don't want to!"
But it is good to ask "Why are things the way they are?" and "What could I do to make things better?"
In India, many people are told, "You are poor because the gods made you that way. You will always be poor because you did something bad in a previous life. Worship the village idol or the gods will make your life even worse. You do not need to learn because you are not as worthy as other people. There is nothing you can do about it.
Jesus asked that kind of question often. Why do you act the way you do? ... Why do you believe the things you believe? The Sermon on the Mount is filled with questions that challenge the "normal" way of thinking about things.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." (Matthew 5:43,44)
People were amazed by Jesus' teaching. In many passages, the Bible describes Jesus as the "light of the world." He allows us to see ourselves and our behavior in the brightness of His Light.
Talk about it: Read Matthew 5 and ask, "Why do we not actually live this way?" How do you think the literacy class helped the women look at their lives differently? In what ways can they change when they see with the light of literacy? With the Light of Christ? Pray as a family that more of India's poor will ask "Why?" and see the Light of Christ shining into their lives.
People in India do not have to live in darkness and neither do we.
Learn more about the kinds of work many illiterate families must do to earn an income.
The gift of literacy
India has 18 official languages and hundreds of regional and tribal dialects. Many Indians speak more than one language - even 3 or 4!
Yet nearly 200 million women in India can't read ... and 1 in 3 adults in India are illiterate. And sadly, illiteracy is passed from one generation to the next.
Mission India's Adult Literacy Classes are giving these women and men the opportunity to learn basic literacy skills and improve life for their families today!
Each Adult Literacy Class has about 30 students. They meet 2 hours each night, 5 nights a week - for an entire year! Usually classes are held at night, so that it doesn't interfere with working during the day.
Literacy classes might meet in an open courtyard or under a tree in the local village. Sometimes the class is sponsored by a small local church, and the classes gather there. The class you saw in today's video was meeting in the front yard of the volunteer teacher's house!
Mission India provides training for the volunteer teachers and resources to teach the class, including lesson books and a chalkboard and chalk for each student, and a kerosene lamp. It costs $30 to enroll one student in a year-long class.
The literacy classes are organized into four primers, or lesson booklets, each covering 12 weeks of lessons. The first primer focuses on alphabet and number recognition, as well as writing, reading simple sentences, and learning basic math skills. These resources are available in about 20 of India's major languages!
By the end of the year-long course, graduates can reach a 5th grade level of education. This is the minimum education requirement in India for applying for government and other non-manual labor jobs. Students who graduate from Mission India's literacy classes are able to get better jobs and manage their family's income wisely.
That's not all! As the learners are practicing their reading and writing, they are learning life skills and lessons like:
- Telling time
- How to read a train schedule
- Advice on keeping their families healthy and avoiding disease
- How to use their new literacy skills to earn more money
- (More details about this Self Help Training Program are featured in the Day 2 episode "Into the Slum")
- Their rights and responsibilities as citizens (including the right to vote and to choose their own religion)
- The importance of caring for God's creation (such as not throwing trash on the ground)
- How to serve as leaders and role models in their community
Sharing the Good News
Most importantly, the literacy classes are a great way to open the door to sharing the Good News.
The Bible-based curriculum slowly introduces students to the Gospel, beginning with creation and later introducing Jesus as God's Son and Savior of the world. Each lesson includes a phrase from the Bible that offers students wisdom for living healthy, happier lives.
- Click on the "Literacy Primer" tab above to see a real literacy lesson!
The classes are taught by believers who offer to pray with their students and care about their problems. Often new students are amazed that these classes are offered to them for free ... and that their teacher is so caring and concerned.
This is even more amazing to the many low-caste and Dalit (Untouchable) students who have grown up believing that they are not worth educating. It might be the first time they have ever met a Christian - and many students come to their teachers asking more about Jesus.
About 35% of graduates make a decision to follow Jesus - but the literacy classes are open to anyone and students are never forced to become Christian.
Even more exciting is that new worship groups often grow out of these literacy classes! And because these new believers can read God's Word, literacy classes are also helping to build Bible-literate churches in India.
What are the literacy students learning?
Learners in Mission India's literacy classes start their year-long program learning simple letters and numbers. As they meet each night for 52 weeks, they progress to reading simple sentences and then entire stories!
You can see the literacy lessons for yourself! Click on the thumbnail pictures on the right to open PDFs of a lesson in English and Hindi.
Activity: Bible scavenger hunt
Do you see the proverbs or Bible-based sayings that are on the bottom of the lesson pages? Each saying gives literacy students a word picture of how God wants us to live. The class materials are like a road map, showing students the path that leads to success and a better life.
We know that the Bible is our real road map!
The Scriptures tell us about the Good News of Jesus Christ and the eternal home He is preparing for us. The Bible's pages are also full of wisdom on how to live well and be successful here on earth.
So, let's go on a scavenger hunt in the Bible to find out what God has to tell us!
- Print the English literacy class lessons.
- Grab your Bible and/or concordance and look for the verse that matches up with the saying at the bottom of each page. Some of these are easier than others!
- You can work on your own or even make teams to see who can come up with the answers first.
- Parents of younger students: you may want to look up the verses yourself and make a set of cards to play this as a matching game.
How did you do? Did you find them all? Click here for the answers.
Take it a step further: These are just a few of the hundreds of verses in the Bible that will guide you in living a life that is wise and pleasing to God. Do another Bible scavenger hunt, looking for one to two verses on these topics: Wisdom, Honesty, Contentment, Anger, Patience, and Hard Work (Hint: the book of Proverbs is a great place to start!).
My name is Preema.
I am 33 years old and my husband and I have three children.
My family is poor. The air in my village in the northern state of Uttarakhand is thick with the rotten smell of the trash dumped near the river. Many people in my village get sick from malaria and other diseases. Most of us can't afford to take our children to the doctor.
My husband works at any odd jobs he finds. He works hard to support me and our three children, but there is never enough money. I grew up in a poor family, and I always hoped I would be able to give my children a better future. But we barely have enough money for food, so we can't think of sending our little ones to school.
One day, I met a Children's Bible Club leader who happened to be passing by our house. He asked if I would send my children to the Club so they can grow and learn. Excited, I said, "Yes!"
My children began learning many things, and they were having a good time at the Children's Bible Club. One night, my oldest son came running towards me and said, "Mama, I have seen many older people carrying slates and books in their hands. It looked as if they were going to school. They all gathered at the same place where we go to our Bible Club."
I had heard from our neighbors about free literacy classes were just starting in our village, but it seemed too good to be true. So when I heard my son's news, I was overjoyed!
I had never had the chance to go to school, so I wasn't about to let this opportunity pass me by! I joined the night school the very next day.
Each evening, my children would come running home from Bible Club, filled with excitement about the songs and stories they were hearing. I could only stay for a few minutes to listen, because it was time for me to hurry to my class! It was like a relay race every day.
In my Adult Literacy classes, I learned how to read and write, and also how to properly feed my family and how to keep clean and avoid diseases. I have learned so much that will help me take better care of my family.
I also listened to the stories about Jesus. I did not want to miss even a single class because these stories were so inspiring and touching. At home, I shared with my children about what I had learned, and we talked about Jesus. We began praying together.
Soon, I received Jesus as my personal Savior. I pray to the Lord now, and I attend church with my children.
Please pray with me and my children that my husband will come to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus, too.