This Thursday, September 8, is UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International Literacy Day, held annually since 1967 “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.”
“Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 771 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills today,” states UNESCO.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UNESCO “nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women.
“To ensure no one is left behind, we need to enrich and transform the existing learning spaces through an integrated approach and enable literacy learning in the perspective of lifelong learning.”
To that end, this year’s International Literacy Day will be celebrated under the theme, “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces” and will be an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, thanks to our supporters across the country, we are working to increase literacy rates for children and youth across sub-Saharan African countries including Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe in a variety of ways.
Throughout the years, to increase literacy for hundreds of thousands, we have constructed school buildings and classrooms, paid the school fees and other educational expenses for orphaned and abandoned children and constructed wells enabling children (especially girls) to no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water for their families, but walking to school instead.
Most recently, we shipped 22,000 books to Uganda for our partner there, Bega kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder), to distribute to 170 rural schools that will benefit tens of thousands of children and youth each year, first, giving them the basic knowledge, they need to read and write, and secondly, instilling a lifelong love of reading and learning at a young age.
“Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty,” notes the UN. “Disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes are found across regions, and sub-Saharan Africa…lags behind.”
“As a result, many students are not fully prepared to participate in a highly complex global economy.”
Globally, an estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age – more than 55 percent of the global total – lacked minimum proficiency in reading and math in 2015.
“Despite years of steady growth in enrollment rates, non-proficiency rates remain disturbingly high,” states the UN. “They are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where 88 percent of children (202 million) in primary and lower secondary school age were not proficient in reading, and 84 percent (193 million) were not proficient in math in 2015.”
And again, thanks to our supporters, we are working continuously to help rectify these disturbing statistics – thousands of students at a time – year after year.
“Literacy is about empowerment and gains for individuals, communities, and societies. Literary is a precondition to achieving our ambitions on competitiveness, healthy living, sustainability, social inclusion, and active citizenship.”
– Princess Laurentien, UNESCO special envoy on literacy