Since its inception in 2009 Systematic Voters’ Education & Electoral Participation (SVEEP) division of Election Commission of India has taken numerous initiatives to educate and empower the citizens towards the electoral process. The importance of developing the practice of citizenship development for electoral participation is vital to investment in the future of democracy. As the saying goes by, youth is the future of democracy hence it is necessary to focus on the younger generation for civic education leading to robust electoral participation. Keeping this rationale in view and the motto ‘No Voter to Be Left Behind’, Election Commission of India (ECI) took a landmark step towards the cause of electoral literacy with its initiative - ‘Mainstreaming of Electoral Literacy through Educational Institutions, Organizations and Communities in India’, under its SVEEP Programme.
The idea of setting up Electoral Literacy Club was an expedition in itself which came to life after a working group analyzed the civic studies course books from grades 6 to 10. It was found that while students are taught about democracy and functioning of the government, there is little content on the development of active electoral participation. Moreover, no information is available about something as basic as the registration/enrollment process for the voters. After the meeting, held on 13th Feb, 2017 the working group agreed upon the following:
- to chalk out the Content, Method, Tools of Electoral Literacy
- to study the Best Practices across the world
- ELC to reach out to those outside formal education system
- Neutral content to be developed with local flavour
Second Meeting of working group was held on 5th April, 2017 in ECI where in the working group recommended framing of Electoral Literacy Clubs (ELCs) with the following objectives:
- to prepare future and young voters of the country by educating them about the electoral process
- to provide hands-on experience and serve as a vibrant hub of Electoral Literacy
- the resources should include exciting group engagement activities with well defined learning tools
- ELCs should be an Interactive forum with least lecturing
Third Meeting was held in Indian Habitat Center (IHC) where NCERT text books and NIOS chapters on social science were studied to prepare the content and deliverables. This was followed by preparation of a conceptual Framework and Action plan, which after the approval of the Commission, was forwarded to CEOs of all State / UTs along with a Project document. In certain cases, it was shared up to the DEO level.
After comprehensive rounds of discussion with key stakeholders, learning outcomes and important messages were listed out. Guided by these, games and activities were developed for students of Class IX, X, XI, XII and for Chunav Pathshala members. This resource development phase continued for about six months and was followed by three rounds of field trials in schools and communities in Delhi and NCR. It was realized that the effectiveness of any activity depended on the persons convening the ELC, their language and communication skills, and their correct understanding of the messages. Hence, on December 19th and 20th 2017, ECI organized a two day workshop for a final review of tools prepared for the Electoral Literacy Clubs (ELCs). Forty participants that included Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs), master trainers, representatives from civil society organizations, educators from schools and colleges as well as development communicators from different corners of the nation were invited to further refine the learning tools, check their viability and deliberate on an effective roll-out plan to set up the ELCs. Around 30 learning tools were reviewed by the participants in the workshop.
Post the final review, a total of seven comprehensive resource guides were created and designed for the ELC project. The Resource Guides are for the benefit of club conveners and carries step by step information on how to conduct the various activities. These are: guides for classes IX – XII, Colleges, Rural Communities and a common handbook. To make it more interesting and engaging, 6 games and 2 story scrolls were also developed in association with Lady Irwin College, as tools for the purpose of engaging with communities via Chunav Pathshalas.
Under the project the following target audience is covered:–
- ELC for Schools – Targeting around 7 crore students as per HRD stats in the age group of Class IX-XII in around 2 lakh senior secondary schools
- ELC for Colleges – Targeting new and young voters in the age group 18 - 25 years in about 800 Universities, 39,071 colleges as per HRD stats
- ELC for Communities (Chunav Pathshalas) – Targeting 1 million Polling Stations with a focus on 14-17 year olds outside of the formal education system; will include members of all ages
- Voter Awareness forums (VAF) – will be set up in Government and Non-Government Organizations as well as in private institutions
A major component of the project in its execution phase was the training of the ELC conveners. Considering the sheer magnitude of the numbers the project is dealing with, a system of cascade training was finalized, wherein, ECI would train State Level Master Trainers (SLMTs), who will in turn train District Level Master Trainers (DLMTs), who subsequently train Master Trainers and on-ground Conveners. Workshops were conducted for State Level Master Trainers (SLMTs) from the 36 states and Union Territories (UTs) of the country in four batches of 40-50 participants each, in February- March 2018.
A final leg of trainings was conducted on 23rd and 24th of May 2018, with participants from CSOs from across the nation. The was felt that CSOs can play a major role in taking forward the initiative of imparting electoral literacy through games and activities within their respective organizations as well as the communities they work with. Presently, training of conveners on the ground level is taking place in all States and UTs. As an aid to these trainings, SVEEP has developed a documentary which is essentially a collection of activities under the programme. It is also available as tutorials on SVEEP portal.
No project is complete without the evaluation, hence National Law University, Delhi has been enrolled for the evaluation and impact assessment of the project. Teams of NLU have visited ELCs different states in different phases, of ELC, with the 1 st phase starting between September - October, 2018. Through these stepping stones, Election Commission of India embarks on a ceaseless journey of strengthening democracy via these young and future voters of the country.
Edited by Apoorv Tiwary