International Literacy Day 2006Literacy Sustains Development is the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day to be celebrated around the world on September 8. In his message for this day, the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura stressed that “Literacy is widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful tools of development, which makes its relative neglect all the more frustrating.” Mr Matsuura added that literacy is also “a lever of change and an instrument for achieving further social progress.”
Considerable achievements have been made in many countries and progress has been attained through adult literacy and non-formal education programmes but challenges remain. An estimated 781 million adults live without basic literacy skills, of whom two-thirds are women. In addition, approximately 103 million children have no access to school and are therefore not learning to read, write or count.
According to UNESCO’s 2006 Global Monitoring Report South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%), and the Arab States (62.7%). Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12.8%), Niger (14.4%) and Mali (19%).
The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty. In Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique and Nepal, where three-quarters or more of the population live on less than $2 dollars per day, adult literacy rates are below 63% and the number of illiterates exceed 5 million.
UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) seeks to help reduce by half the rate of adult illiteracy in the world by 2015. As a global strategy to raise awareness on the importance of literacy, LIFE operations are country-led, respond to country-specific needs and priorities, and correspond to national capacities. Designed to further the goals of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012), LIFE is being implemented in 35 countries* with a literacy rate of less than fifty percent or a population of more than 10 million illiterates.
In his message for Literacy Day, Mr Matsuura also paid tribute to the achievements of the individuals, communities and associations around the world who continue to help others express themselves through the written word. “On International Literacy Day, let their efforts and commitment be a shining example to others of the power of literacy.”
*Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Yemen.