E very September 8, the world commemorates the International Literacy Day as stipulated by the United Nations (UN). It is a day that calls for the promotion of literacy at all levels in order to totally eradicate the lingering dangers of illiteracy across the globe.
Taking cognizance of the fact that over 775 million adults in the world lack minimum education, coupled with the acknowledgement of the real dangers of illiteracy in any society, the commemoration of the International Literacy Day came into existence on November 17, 1965 by the effort of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
It was first celebrated in 1966. The aim of adopting the initiative was to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals and the international community at large, as well as to raise public awareness on the extraordinary value of the written words and the necessity to promote a literate society. Literacy, according to BBC English Dictionary, is ‘the ability to read and write’. Over the years, there have been several definitions of literacy by various schools of thought. In some quarters, it is described as a fundamental right and a foundation for lifetime learning, better well-being and livelihoods.
Surely, literacy is a driver for sustainable and inclusive development; it’s a tool for personal empowerment and a means for social and human development; it is equally an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, income and his/her relationship with the world. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for alleviating poverty, eradicating child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality, as well as ensuring sustainable development, peace and functional democracy. Hence, educational opportunities and other academic prowess depend solely on literacy.
The truth remains that, we need to be able to read and write in order to get through our basic daily tasks or activities, such as writing a shopping list, gaining admission into any school, and securing a job opportunity. No doubt, literacy opens up a window of opportunitie to every one of us; and it is very essential to our individual and national developments. Since it is only a literate community otherwise known as a ‘dynamic community’ that has the ability to exchange ideas and engage in debate, there’s no gain reiterating that literacy is the only tool that can guarantee a healthy and hearty living, and an encouraging development among mankind.
Illiteracy, however, is an obstacle to a better quality of life. As a societal cankerworm, it has yielded several uncalled and inconsequential stigmatizations among humanity, both in the past and present, thereby leading to series of unimaginable and uncontrollable violence. Undoubtedly, several people in the world have derailed in their respective pursuits owing to illiteracy. An illiterate person, whom is considered as a vulnerable being, is exposed to numerous maltreatments or abuses, including humiliation, stigmatization, molestation, intimidation, extortion, drug abuse, just to mention but a few.
The dangers of illiteracy cannot be overemphasized. It has led to several social, economic, cultural, religious, and political mayhems at various levels of human endeavours. Unequivocally, illiteracy has subjected humanity to uncountable vices, and has remained the major cause of the increasing rate of abject poverty as well as several severe illnesses which often result in death. For over sixty-six years, the UNESCO has worked relentlessly to ensure that literacy remains a priority on national and international agenda through its formal and non-formal literacy programmes worldwide.
Till date, the organization is earnestly striving towards realizing the vision of a literate world for all, considering that no meaningful development can take place in a society that lacks basic knowledge, or literacy. Part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) regarding Universal Education was aimed at ensuring that every human being, especially a child, has the opportunity to make a better life. Unfortunately, too many children in the world today grow up without this chance, because they are denied their basic right to even attend nursery or primary school.
Lessons learnt over recent years have shown that, meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political wills, and for doing things differently at all levels – locally, nationally and internationally, irrespective of the challenges that might be faced.
At such a time like this, while the global community commemorates the annual International Literacy Day, we are expected to contribute our respective quotas toward ensuring that everyone around us understands the essence of having a literate society, which would go a long way to tackle the various dangers of illiteracy that is earnestly tarnishing our socio-economic image.
To this end, in our individual and collective capacities, we must strive to strengthen awareness on the prime essence of literacy, which can only be acquired via the needed education and allied matters. The concerned authorities and entities must therefore leverage the booming existence of technology around the world, particularly digitization, in their respective bids to alleviate illiteracy.
Owing to the fact that the emergence of the digital age has made it possible for people to acquire knowledge even from the comfort of their homes, we need to utilize the avenue towards doing the needful. For instance, the various radio stations across the country ought to endeavour to initiate programmes that would help to enlighten their audience on issues bordering on education.
The social media should equally be awash with educating matters rather than trivial issues that end up misleading our young ones. On their part, the various fundamental stakeholders such as the families, communities, religious bodies, and schools, are required to use their powers to sensitize their members or wards, on the inevitable impact of literacy. Moreover, governments at all levels must as well ensure that the cost of education is subsidized to the barest minimum to enable the poorest of the poor key into the crusade towards tackling the lingering dangers of illiteracy. The time to act is now. Think about it!