International Literacy Day…the need to speak, hear, read and write

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ZIMBABWE has always taken heed of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number Four, more so as it seeks to achieve an upper-middle income economy by 2030.

SDG Number Four promotes ‘…an inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

Government has since allowed the re-opening of schools which were closed for more than two months due to the Third Wave of COVID-19.

Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only stunted the growth of education but contributed to the increase of illiteracy across the globe.

Coming in different forms, literacy is one of the aspects that has grabbed global attention and has come to be accepted as a fundamental human right.

To be literate means one has the ability to speak, hear, read and write. 

The ability to read is also one of the foundations of modern civilisation.

Literacy has been identified as an essential part of education that ensures human centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Due to importance of literacy, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared that International Literacy Day be celebrated each year on September 8.

The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘Literacy for human  centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide.’

Such a theme highlights how the definition of literacy continues to expand.

Diversity and growth with regards to literacy is seen by the rise of information, communication and technology which requires more than just reading but also how to embrace new technology.

The theme for this  year’s celebrations points to the aspect of digital literacy being a much needed skill in this era of  COVID -19.

International Literacy Day turns its focus toward the literacy skills necessary to navigate digital mediated societies.

To protect the well-being of children and ensure they have access to continued learning, UNESCO, in March 2020, launched the COVID-19 Global Education Coalition, a multi-sector partnership between the UN family, civil society organisations, media and IT partners to design and deploy innovative solutions.

These organisations seek to help countries tackle content and connectivity gaps  as well as facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for  the youth during this period of sudden and unprecedented education disruption.

Another aim of this Global Education Coalition is to facilitate the return of students to school when they reopen so that there is a decrease in dropout rates.

According to UNESCO, there are 773 million illiterate young people and adults around the globe.

This worrying figure can be reduced if governments unify to come up with strategies and measures that guarantee that no-one is left out in achieving the fundamental basic education rights. 

African governments have made commendable strides towards improving the education system of the whole continent.

Through the African Union, they have managed to make early childhood development a priority for the decade of Education in Africa.

The Continent Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) clearly states that Early Childhood Education and  Development  (ECED) is the pillar for future learning and identifies it as the next frontier if Africa is to realise sustained quality education and training.

To keep up with the pace of literacy and education system, Zimbabwe offers Early Childhood Development (ECD) to children from the age of three to five and the national policy requires primary schools to offer a minimum of two ECD classes. 

Such an initiative is done to eliminate illiteracy which can affect an individual’s capabilities for development.

The Zimbabwean Government has also lined up programmes to increase the already impressive literacy rate. 

Both Devolution and National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) aim at improving infrastructure in schools.

Speaking at a tour of Vulindlela Primary School  in July  this year, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes Dr Joram Gumbo said Government would ensure improvement of schools infrastructure development in line with Vision 2030.

“I’m happy to report that during the NDS1 period, Government will give additional attention to broadening access and participation to education by marginalised populations in both rural and urban areas. Government will therefore embark on deliberate programmes aimed at accelerating infrastructure development and rehabilitation of schools,” he said.

Parents, on the other hand, can play a leading role in improving the literacy rate and development. 

Parents are role models of their children and it is through them that they learn the basics of language, communication abilities and even attitudes to reading.

Commemorations of International Literacy Day have taken place annually since 1967.

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