Promoting literacy for a world in transition

Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies

One of the premier Teacher Education Institutes organized a thought-provoking session on International Literacy Day (ILD) on 8th September 2023. After the formal welcome, the first speaker took the participants through the background of ILD, global overview (through statistical data), current status of literacy across the world and in the country, Programmes and initiatives taken by different organizations to celebrate the day across the country, theme of the ILD-2023, explanation of literacy (the ability to read, write, and understand information and a fundamental skill for personal development and social progress). The speaker referred to the future course of action concerning (ILD).

The talk made a special reference to sustainable and peaceful societies and marginalized communities. Developing the argument, the speaker said that a diverse range of minorities and Indigenous Peoples exist across the world, and one thing they all have in common is that they often face discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion.

International human rights law, underpinned by the principle of equality, guarantees the right to education of everyone. And yet, minorities and Indigenous Peoples are likely to be denied their right to education.

According to Minority Rights Group International (an International Human Rights Organization with a mission to secure rights for ethnic, national, religious, and linguistic minorities), the majority of children who are out of school worldwide are minority and indigenous children.

Minority and indigenous children are also regularly deprived of access to quality education that is relevant and responsive to their specific context and needs.

The speaker urged that it was only literacy that could guarantee the true liberty of marginalized groups to be sustainable and peaceful societies. The maxim is that literacy helps to reduce poverty and inequality & promotes social cohesion and understanding and creates a more just and equitable world.

A volley of questions was asked by the participants to clear certain doubts about ILD. It was encouraging to observe the audience coming alive with relevant questions about the theme of the day. The speaker at the dais felt relieved and satisfied as the participants were piqued to respond, and question intermittently.

One of the participants remarked that while referring to “sustainability” there was no mention of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the word “marginalized” was not explained in light of South African Nations with particular response to Nigeria. Another speaker looked obsessed with the philosophy of idealism. He urged that International Literacy Day demands inclusiveness and that students, teachers, and different stakeholders should have been the audience to send the message across.

While observing the aggression in the communication of the participants certain thoughts came to my mind. The participants looked starkly reactive while asking questions. The meaningful discussion and question-answer session allow us to keep the ball rolling and the conversation becomes natural. It is always a sign of wisdom to respond rather than react to a situation. Instead of explicit criticism, we can have a different opinion to be voiced very cordially. It allows us to maintain the thread of the talk with cohesion and to create an independent and inspiring environment for all to speak.

We need to understand that while speaking about an issue, it is always advisable to stay in one's circle of influence rather than wondering about the area of concern. What I mean to say is that our circle of influence is the things that concern us that we can do something about. For Example-We may talk about International Literacy Day and discuss that Literacy is closely linked to several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among them including quality of education, gender equality, and poverty eradication. We may be worried about the statistical data of Nigeria where Data from the Federal Ministry of Education shows that as of September 2021, 38 percent of the estimated 200 million or more population representing over 76 million adults, are illiterates (i.e. circle of concern), however, what can we do about it (i.e. our circle of influence)? We could rightly say that there’s no point in wasting time and energy on the things we can’t control.

We can’t control the economy of the world or global literacy crises. As we react, we tend to focus on the Circle of Concern, which depletes our energy, because we have no control over it. Now let’s get back to the original talk and stay in our circle of influence which is in our control. The circle of influence is an area where the person at the helm of affairs is independent in making informed decisions and can affect change through his actions and suggestions.

International Literacy Day (ILD) is observed on September 8 every year to raise awareness of the importance of literacy as a basic human right and to celebrate the achievements of literacy around the world. The theme for ILD 2023 was "Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies."

India (our circle of influence) has made significant progress in reducing illiteracy in recent decades. According to the National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), the literacy rate in India increased from 52.2% in 1991 to 77.7% in 2022. With the new education policy aiming to achieve 100 percent literacy in the next decade however, there are still significant disparities in literacy rates between different states and between men and women and there is a long way to go before we are all truly literate. For example, the literacy rate in Bihar is 61.8%, while the literacy rate in Kerala is 95.3%. The literacy rate for women is also lower than the literacy rate for men, with a national average of 65.4% for women compared to 82.1% for men. The government of India has implemented several programs to promote literacy, including The Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) Mission, under Nep-2020, and the New India Literacy Programme (NILP) for adult learners. There are also several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to promote literacy in India.

In conclusion, to promote literacy for sustainability and peace we must invest in education, create supportive learning environments, empower women and girls, and use technology to reach the most marginalized groups of society. We can all make a difference by supporting literacy programs, volunteering our time, donating to a literacy programme, and speaking out about the importance of literacy. So let me conclude that literacy is a fundamental right and it is essential for personal development, social progress, and sustainable development. We must all work together to promote literacy for a more just and equitable country first and the world next.

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