It was in the year 1966 that September 8 was declared as International Literacy Day at the 14th session of the UNESCO’s General Conference and is being celebrated annually since then. At UNESCO’s 40th General conference in Paris on November 15, 2019, the member states agreed upon embracing a novel UNESCO Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy for the years 2020-2025 which had four areas of priority, namely:
The International Literacy Day celebration was marked to emphasize the importance of literacy for society at large. As per UNESCO, ILD 2020 will be focusing on ‘Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond with a focus on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.’ This will lead to a discussion around how efficient methodologies and pedagogies can be taught in teaching programmes for youth and adult so that they can deal with the ongoing pandemic effectively without having to suffer because of it.
Virtual teaching during the COVID-19 induced lockdown has been so focused on school and college students that we often overlook the absence of such virtual training/teaching programmes for adults.
UNESCO is organizing two events to celebrate International Literacy Day 2020, which will both be held online. The first virtual meeting would be on ‘Literacy, teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: the role of educators and changing pedagogies’ and the second virtual meet shall be on the ‘Laureates of the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes 2020’. Such international days are a channel to educate people around the globe and create an awareness in them regarding specific essential issues like literacy, democracy etc.
The National Statistical Office (NSO) India has quite recently released a survey which is pointing towards some improvement in both urban and rural literacy rates. Just like the past few years, Kerala is leading the way with a literacy rate of 96.2% while Andhra Pradesh is at the bottom of this survey with a literacy rate of 66.4%. Looking at this, it seems complicated to dream of a 100% literate India, at least in the near future as the overall National literary rate is 77.7%.
As of 2020, we should all be moving towards making our country people educated instead of just being literate to facilitate logical and comprehensive thinking and scientific reasoning. Literacy is a narrower concept as compared to education which talks about developing skills so that one can direct their knowledge in the right manner and in the most efficient way.
Although not always, but many times, education makes a person more aware of the existing superstitions, irrationality, rote learning of traditions and rituals and hence, educated people may make an informed decision of fighting such customs and biases. Education doesn’t always have to do something with being literate as history has proved, time and again, that the most learned people are often illiterate.
Hence, it goes without saying that a university degree does not always amount to being educated; well-read, yeah but not always well-educated.
Literacy is the first step towards developing a steady mind which opens the doors to all that is happening worldwide, to opportunities, to new avenues and a respectful and dignified life. The number of private school teachers who have lost their jobs and their livelihoods all across the country during this pandemic should be taken into consideration by the respective State governments.
After that, provisions should be made for them to be able to lead a life devoid of financial troubles. Once teachers at respectable schools, today these very teachers have to work odd jobs to take care of their expenses and that of their family. Even in the state of Telangana, private school teachers are forced to work as daily wage earners as they have no option left in such drastic and recession stricken times.
Such incidents need to be reported more and more so that the concerned authorities can pay heed to this and take the necessary steps in the right direction. The focus of media needs to shift from the ongoing media-trail of certain high profile cases and highlight these not-so-common problems of ordinary people. Teaching is supposed to be a respectable occupation, and as a nation, we owe this much to teachers since they’re the ones who are involved in nation-building from the grass-root level itself.
The importance of literacy has been beautifully summed up by Kofi Annan, ex-Secretary-General of the United Nations, where he says, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty,… For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
Happy International Literacy Day!