International Literacy Day
September 8th marks the 51st annual International Literacy Day. Established in 1966 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the holiday was first celebrated the following year in 1967. Observed by all UN states, International Literacy Day is meant to raise awareness and highlight the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and entire nations.
Throughout the world, 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills. That’s one in five, and two thirds of them are women. There are also 60.7 million children in the world that are out of school and even more children attend irregularly or drop out before becoming literate. Regionally, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the lowest literacy rates (58.6% and 59.7%, respectively). The countries with the fewest literate adults are Niger, 19.1%; South Sudan, 26.8%; Guinea, 30.4%; and Burkina Faso, 36% (where we traveled at the end of last month).
Improving literacy rates is a critical step in reducing poverty worldwide. Illiteracy is intrinsically linked to poverty, and nothing opens up new possibilities and opportunities like the ability to read and write. The first step in improving the lives of future generations is making sure they know how to read.
OMPT's work in improving literacy
OMPT and our partners have worked to improve literacy throughout the world. Over the course of three trips in 2012 and 2013, we helped Save the Children in Mozambique (58.8% literacy rate), Nepal (64.7% literacy rate), and Ethiopia (49.1% literacy rate) with their program Literacy Boost. Literacy Boost works to improve reading opportunities for children, as well as their communities, by involving family and neighbors in student learning.
In Cambodia, we partnered with Room to Read to improve literacy by training teachers’ literacy development skills to better serve their students. Room to Read staff used our equipment and training to create instructional videos about how to best teach students in basic education reading and writing skills. OMPT’s training and equipment is often used in pursuit of improving basic education and literacy rates throughout the developing world, including projects with Digital Study Hall in India, Sunrise Education in Nepal, Foundation for Tomorrow in Tanzania, AIR in Haiti and others.
International Literacy Day is a celebration of the improvements in global literacy--compared to 50 years ago, literacy rates worldwide have doubled. Yet it’s also meant to raise awareness about how far we still have to go. The ability to read and write is so critical to improving one’s place in life that we should not be satisfied until every adult and child has access to the opportunities afforded by what literacy gives us. We at OMPT are honored to be doing our part in this momentous effort.