Kerala, a model for the country in education and health, received a jolt when Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar staked claim to the top literacy spot with a rate of 94.65 per cent, higher than the state’s last census figure of 93.91 per cent. Officially, the state still remains on top of the literacy chart, but the strides made by Tripura show it is time to ponder whether literacy activities in the state have taken a back seat or not. Sadly, the answer is yes, despite the laudable initiatives under the continuing education programmes by Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA), which heads the campaign in the state. While the overall literacy rate in Kerala has increased over the past three censuses (from 89.91 pc to 90.86 pc to 93.91 pc), it has not been able to touch the expected figures, according to some experts. “Right now the literacy rate is around 94 per cent, but when we projected the growth in 1997, we had hoped that by 2011, we’d achieve 97 per cent literacy rate,” said noted historian M G Sasibhooshan, who served as director of the Mission between 1997 and 2001. He attributes this to institutional inconsistencies due to political fluctuations. “With every new government there comes change in policies. There is also a new head of institution every few years. Thanks to these political appointments, I don’t think any director has headed the KSLMA for more than two years for some time now,” Sasibhooshan said. Indeed there have been times when the KSLMA has had to function without a head as well. At least twice in the last two years, the Mission has gone several months without a director. Its present director, Geetha Sajeev, associate professor in Mathematics at Baselios Poulose II Catholicos College, Piravom, took charge only around two months ago.