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International Literacy Day

08/09/2011

There are nearly four billion literate people in the world today. While this is a hopeful number, it pales when compared to the fact that there are nearly seven billion people in the world today. What is means is that  literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target.

Although  the adult literacy rate has increased by about eight percentage points globally over the past twenty years, today 793 million adults – most of them girls and women – are illiterate. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education.

More than half the adult population of the following 11 countries are illiterate: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. South and West Asia account for more than half (51,8%) the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21,4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12,8%), the Arab States (7,6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4,6%), North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).

Why is it so important that people are literate? According to UNESCO:

 “Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy…A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development .”

Today is International Literacy Day. It was first celebrated in 1966, and its goal is to highlight the importance of  literacy to individuals, communities and societies.This year’s International Literacy Day will focus on the link between literacy and peace. Take some time today to celebrate by reading something, writing something, and sharing something. Consider the link between literacy and peace, the link between literacy and democracy – the links are stronger than you may think.

 

 

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