International Literacy Day: So much more to do

Today in Dhaka, Bangladesh, International Literacy Day is being celebrated with the distribution of UNESCO International Literacy Prizes, organized by the Government of Bangladesh and UNESCO, part of the Global Education First Initiative. Great progress is being made but looking at the literacy map, so much remains to be done.

Incredible as it may seem, today there are countries with literacy rates well below 40 per cent: Mali, for instance, has a rate of 33.6%, Central African Republic 36.8%, Chad, 37.3%, Ethiopia 39 %. Others are far worse. Benin has a literacy rate of 28.7 per cent, the same as Burkina Faso, Guinea, 25.3%, Niger, just 15.5%. See the UNESCO Literacy Atlas (*)

All of these countries were colonized by European powers, which today, in NATO, together with the United States of America spend 1.2 trillion USD on weapons systems to murder people. Today, there are still 781 million adults and 126 million youths who cannot read or write a sentence. && per cent of these are women. Three out of every five youths who cannot read and write are girls, this often being the result of exclusion from education, while the boys in a family are sent to school and the girls spend their time fetching water or tending to the fields or animals.

We can add to this information the inhumane economic blockade against Cuba, which launched the Yo, sí puedo literacy campaign in 2001, aiming to attack illiteracy across the globe. The method, based on 65 video-based lessons, has enjoyed tremendous success among developing countries in three continents (Latin America, Africa and Asia), despite the blockade imposed by Washington.

And we can add to this the fact that the Libyan Jamahiriya of Muammar al-Gaddafy was overthrown in a criminal and illegal act of butchery by the FUKUS Axis (France-UK-US), when Gaddafy had brought Libya's literacy rate up from the lowest to the highest in Africa and was exporting literacy through his satellite program, allowing all Africans access to tele-teaching sessions.

Despite the efforts of the West to limit access to literacy and schooling while they were colonial powers and despite their best efforts today to destabilize countries and Governments which fight against illiteracy, globally the adult literacy rate is 84.1 percent (adult males 88.6%; adult females 79.9%), while the youth literacy rate stands at 89.5% (male 92.2%; female 86.8%).

Surely, Humankind can only say the job is done when there is 100% literacy among all youths and adults. Without full literacy, we cannot guarantee full gender equality, we cannot sustain development and it is difficult to implement healthcare programs or peace and reconciliation initiatives. How can all children have equal opportunities at birth when many of them cannot even read a simple sentence, let alone use a computer keyboard?



Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


([email protected])


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey