World commemorates Literacy Day

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pretoria - The world marks International Literacy Day today, a day dedicated to reflecting on the worryingly high rates of illiteracy.

Literacy Day started as an initiative by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) 44 years ago. It developed several social projects with the objective of attempting to reduce the illiteracy rates worldwide.

According to the United Nations Children's Fun (UNICEF), 95 percent of the world's illiterate people live in developing countries.

"As Africans we have monumental obstacles to overcome in terms of both reducing illiteracy and providing adequate education," said Yvonne Chaka Chaka, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and literacy spokesperson.

She said 21 African nations have adult literacy rates below 50 percent and, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 45 million children don't go to school

Recent years have seen a number of initiatives formed to counter inadequate education and overcome illiteracy from the government, the private sector and non-profit organizations such as UNICEF.

UNICEF's Schools for Africa programme, co-founded with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, aims to increase access to basic education for children throughout Africa.

In South Africa, government has provided local support for South Africa's illiterate adults through the Kha Ri Gude programme (meaning let us learn) , a mass literacy campaign which aims enable 4.7 million adults to become literate by 2012.

"Whether you are able to volunteer as an educator for Kha Ri Gude, donate directly to UNICEF or purchase a pen in support of literacy in Africa, we encourage South Africans to play a part in overcoming illiteracy and providing education," said Chaka Chaka.

"The culture of reading and writing is one of the oldest achievements of mankind and we need to ensure we provide these basic skills to those who need it most. A learning nation is a better nation," she added.