In today’s fast-paced digital landscape the meaning of literacy has evolved beyond reading and writing. Literacy now affects all forms of communication and media and the covid-19 pandemic has magnified the divide in access to literacy opportunities. While literacy rates have been increasing steadily – UNESCO data shows that the youth literacy rate was nearly 92 per cent worldwide in 2019, up from 77 per cent in 1975, literacy remains a global problem worldwide as at least 773 million adults face literacy challenges –two third of them are women. The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified these roadblocks and disproportionately affected vulnerable populations. According to United Nations reports, in the early stages of the pandemic, school closures disrupted the education of 62 per cent of the Global students’ populations. And with literacy programs suspended during this time many with low literacy skills were unable to access essential information. Virtual schooling also affected students’ literacy according to NEWA- a non-profit education organisation. Reading scores in the fall of 2020 had been largely on par with previous years and researchers thought literacy might not be impacted so badly by the changes to schooling. But by spring of 2021, reading scores were between three and six percentile point lower.
Literacy is the benchmark by which a healthy society is measured. Learning how to read and write isn’t just important in the classrooms. Literacy impacts all facets of society, from healthcare to economic stability and beyond. In fact, experts use a country’s literacy rates to determine the overall ‘’ health and competence of communities’’. The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can’t read said by MARK TWAIN. The ability to read and write is the most common definition of literacy. It is an essential tool in converting students into socially active citizens. Being able to read and write means being able to keep up with current events, communicate effectively and comprehend the issues that shape our world. Literacy is a fundamental pillar of a broader education. When we have the confidence to read, we have the confidence to learn both in and out of classroom. Sadly, children and teens that have difficulty reading are more likely to drop out of school before completing their basic education. This creates a negative and profound ripple effect. Did you know that ‘’The World Literacy Foundation’’ estimates that illiteracy costs the global economy 1.5 Trillion USD per year? No matter how ambitious one’s goals and efforts are-a lack of basic literacy and numeracy abilities automatically disqualifies many people from a wide range of quality jobs contributing to poverty and unemployment. In fact, illiterate workers earn 30-42 per cent less than their literate counterparts and are also more likely than those with better literacy skills to suffer poor health. There is far more literacy than just being able to read a book or write a shopping lists. Being able to read, write and comprehend what you’re reading gives you the building blocks you need to improve your quality of life and lays the groundwork for developing abilities needed to be self-sufficient. Women accounts for more than two-third of the world’s illiterate, according to UNESCO. This statistics correlates with estimates that 60 per cent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. When literacy cycle is broken, girls will be able to become economically engaged and self-sufficient, gaining a valuable asset for their own success: Self Respect. Literate women are more likely to send their children, especially their girls to schools. Women become more economically self-sufficient and active participants in their country’s social, political and cultural life when they learn read and write.
The World Literacy Day was instituted during the World Conference of Ministers of Education in Iran’s capital Tehran in 1965. The members in the Conference stressed on eradicating ignorance so that people across the globe will have a greater access to livelihood. In 1966, UNESCO declared September 8 as ‘’ International Literacy Day’’, making its observance on a global scale. The first World Literacy Day was celebrated in 1967. Every year the International Literacy Day is observed under a specific theme. Amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic this year, the theme of this year is ‘’ Literacy for Human-Centered Recover: Narrowing the Digital divide’’. While the pandemic has hindered the learning of young minds, it has also increased the divide of knowledge among the citizen. Besides, the theme this year has been chosen keeping in mind that the learning process has shifted to digital platforms and to create alertness among people regarding digital literacy. The main idea or focus of this year’s theme is to learn and explore the ways in which technology has improved learning so that no one is left behind.
The international Literacy Day is being observed to remind people that literacy is a right. The day raises awareness about the importance of literacy as a matter of human rights and dignity across the World. The day is marked to advance the literacy agenda that enables human beings to march towards a more cultured, literate and sustainable society. As per UNESCO there are at least 773 million people who lack basic literacy skills presently. International Literacy day seeks to remind the world to make efforts to bridge the literacy divide. Among many factors that help build a nation or an individual, literacy is a powerful one. It helps people to think independently and empowers themselves. World literacy Day plays a vital role in reminding people the importance of literacy in societies, communities and individuals. It aims to highlight the necessary requirements to help build more literate societies around the world. Education is one of the most important aspects of mental and psychological development of a human being. Being literate and informed makes us prone to more growth and leads to a stable lifestyle. Promoting this ideology is the main aim of International Literacy Day 2021.
(The views expressed are personal)