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The Importance of International Literacy Day

BY AMANDA HAWKER


Image courtesy of UNESCO

Today, September 8th 2014, is International Literacy Day - a day to raise awareness of literacy and its importance in our world.

According to UNESCO, approximately 774 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills and one in five adults cannot read or write at all – and two-thirds of these are women.  Approximately 75 million children are out of school and many more attend school irregularly or are forced to drop out for a number of reasons.

The theme for this year is "Literacy and Sustainable Development". Literacy is one of the key skills needed to cultivate and promote a culture of sustainable development. It empowers people and societies so they can make the right decisions about economic growth, social development and environmental conservation.

For centuries, Africa has carried the perception of being the “dark continent”, a myth that many unscrupulous organisations and world powers have worked hard to cultivate because a divided Africa is a weak Africa. Africa has some of the world's fastest growing economies, with roughly one third of our continent's 54 countries reporting more than 6% GDP growth.

Yet, many countries in Africa are struggling to meet the challenge of providing young people with the skills needed to find decent work. Youth unemployment remains high, and young people are not developing the entrepreneurial skills to create employment in growing sectors. Literacy, along with numeracy, enables our children to participate completely in their education and subsequently in further education, work and other roles, which allows them to live a life of value. 


Knowledge is power. It is only through education that we can find the means to empower ourselves and our communities. And literacy is a key part of this process. As we join the rest of the world in celebrating International Literacy Day, let us acknowledge that it is only when we completely eradicate illiteracy that we will be able to fully prosper as a continent. 

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