The International Literacy Day (ILD) is a reminder of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. ILD is celebrated on the 8th of September every year. It was first established in 1966 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the aim to remind people about the importance of literacy in terms of respect and human rights. The theme for this year’s day is tagged “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected every sector in the world including the educational sector having its worst experience with the longest school closures and late resumption during and after the lockdown. The pandemic disrupted the learning of children, young people and adults at an unprecedented scale. According to UNESCO, long closures in schools affected 1.6 billion learners at its peak time and magnified the pre-existing inequalities in access to meaningful literacy learning opportunities, disproportionately affecting 773 million non-literate young people and adults with low or no reading and writing skills.
The lockdown imposed to deal with COVID-19 granted greater freedom to abusers, this led to a surge in cases of domestic violence and Gender Based Violence in the country. The lockdown crippled access to life saving services and justice at a time when these are needed most. Most victims were at the mercy of their abusers with limited or no access to information on how to seek justice.
COVID-19 came as a reminder that stressed on the critical importance of literacy, apart from the far side of its importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they value. It is a wheelman for sustainable development.
Technology and digital tools play an essential role in attaining the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals of achieving gender equality, whereby access to reliable, factual information and advice on issues related to Sexual Reproductive Health And Rights (SRHR) such as family planning, STI prevention and counselling, as well as on power balance within relationships and gender identity can be accessible at a fingertip. Technology can be used to deliver information and services to people in a simple and accessible manner. Digital applications have been developed to tackle issues ranging from delivering vital health information to pregnant women and girls to reporting instances of sexual and gender-based violence. Technology can be a viable alternative to fill in the gap on information about sexuality and reproduction when comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is absent from school curriculum.
ILD 2021 trends to explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centred recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults who tend to face intersecting disadvantages due to poverty, gender, social status, ethnicity, language, disabilities and geographical location.
There is a need for governments and partners to bridge the digital divide that exists globally between young literate and non literate youths by building an inclusive technology-enabled learning space to ensure no one is left behind. This can be done through organizing an equitable and inclusive access to technology-enabled literacy programs like Sexual Reproductive Health And Rights (SRHR) programs where young people, women and girls can be taught on how to seek help using technology. There should be an Integration in learning of both reading and writing skills and digital skills in school curriculums to help young school girls get skilled in that regard, to mention but a few. Government and stakeholders should remember that the foundation of every society is its education of literacy and literacy is integral to the growth of every society.
We should all pledge to improve literacy and celebrate the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society around the world.
Written by Maureen Aggie Alor (Programs Assistant).