In June 2015, 101-year old Ayesha Beevi realised a dream\nthat she had long lost hope in. Having lived for more than a century, the\nwoman from Kerala, was among 2 lakh others from the state who have now\ncompleted education up to grade-4. Kerala is now all set to be declared the\nfirst state in the country to achieve what it categorised as complete primary\neducation.Beevi was one among 2,02,862 candidates who passed the exam\nconducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority’s (KSLMA) Athulyam\nscheme. Like her, 80 percent of the candidates who wrote the exam were above 50 years\nof age. The achievement comes five years after the Athulyam scheme was launched.In 1989, the then Chief Minister EK Nayanar started the\ntotal literacy campaign, leading to a declaration in April 1991 that Kerala was\nthe first totally literate state in the country. More than two decades after\nthat, Vice President Hamid Ansari is expected to make this new declaration on\nJanuary 13.We are delighted that there would be a declaration. According to UNESCO guidelines, if 90 percent population in a panchayat has attained primary school education, it is regarded as total.Pradeep Kumar, spokesperson of KSLMAAccording to the Union Government, those who have completed\ngrade-5 are considered to have completed primary education. Pradeep explains\nthat in Kerala education up to grade-4 is regarded as primary education and so\nthe announcement would be of ‘total primary education’. Despite the\ntechnicality, this is being seen as a major achievement.\n\nHow Kerala Achieved This MilestoneKerala government’s first tryst with the mission to ensure every district administration works towards complete primary education can be dated back to 2007, when the Kiran project was launched in Kannur district.More than 11,000 instructors took classes which were organized in libraries, schools and even in houses. More than 28,000 people in the 18-50 age group and around 47,000 people above 50 years of age enrolled themselves in the project. In August 2010, Kannur was declared as the first district in India to attain total primary education.As Project Kiran gained success in Kannur, ‘Athulyam’ was started as a pilot project in 2006 in Nilambur and Chelambra panchayath in Malappuram district, and Payyanur Muncipality in Kannur district.The success of the pilot project encouraged KSLMA to aim bigger. The first phase of Athulyam was launched in 2010 across 140 panchayats in all the constituencies in Kerala. Through extensive surveys, people living in these panchayats who had not yet completed their primary education or had dropped out of schools were traced. Convincing them to study again and sit for exams was the next step.Four years later, the second phase was launched, but this time the plan was even more ambitious. KSLMA decided to target all panchayats across the state. The Social Welfare Department, after an extensive survey, identified 2,05,913 people who were eligible to write the Athulyam general exam titled ‘Athulyam Aksharolsavam’.A whopping 1.7 lakh out of this were woman candidates. On June 7th, 2015, more than 2 lakh candidates wrote the exams at 6613 centres across the state, and this included more than 140 prison inmates from different jails in the state.Candidates were also given the option of choosing Tamil or Kannada as their medium. When the valuation was complete, 98 percent of candidates passed in subjects including Malayalam, Mathematics, English and another one titled ‘We And our Surroundings’.This is a worthy reason for all Malayalees to feel proud and rejoice. To facilitate, sometimes with requests, motivations or with compulsion, the total population in the state to complete the 4th class was a Himalayan task. It is made possible thanks to the collective efforts of the various departments of the government, officials, volunteers, NGOs and friendly associations.\n\nKSLMA’s statement We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.