International Literacy Day

September 8, 2021
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The COVID-19 crisis affected education in an unprecedented way. Teaching and learning in-person was forcefully pushed to a halt affecting several students who had to adjust to unusual learning methods. Institutions adopted digital teaching and learning solutions for distance learning. This stumbling block disrupted the achievement of quality education for all, making this year's celebration of International Literacy Day more relevant.  

Observed on every September 8 since 1966, International Literacy Day is designated by UNESCO brings the international community's attention to the importance of literacy for individuals and communities in all countries, and the significance of a literate society. 

As highlighted in SDG 4, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning and opportunities is important in achieving sustainable development. Poverty, conflict, pre-existing inequalities, and other social challenges can be eradicated or minimised with education. 

This year's observance was celebrated under the theme, "Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide." During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-existing inequalities were magnified as many children and young adults worldwide were unable to continue their studies due to a lack of adequate access to technology and relevant educational digital tools. A large number of non-literates were blind-sided in the countries' response to the pandemic. Governments, nongovernmental private-sector, and humanitarian organisations had to make extra efforts in educating the non-literate populations about the harms of the coronavirus disease and the preventive measures. The shift to distance learning widened existing digital gaps. Developing countries with struggles in access to electricity and connectivity created a challenging environment for teachers and students. 

In such situations, educational institutions that were well equipped to face the challenges of the pandemic offered help to struggling institutions through collaborative efforts such as providing training on digital learning tools. A Monitoring and Evaluation Learning Portal Bewsys developed was helpful in aiding collaboration among stakeholders of higher education institutions in Africa. In these difficult times, the universities capitalised on knowledge sharing to improve, empower, and support education in tertiary institutions.  

Literacy is an essential factor in education. It goes beyond the right to education and empowers people to live a more sustainable life. Technology makes access to education more inclusive. As the world's population keeps increasing, digital approaches to education are likely to be rampant beyond the context of the pandemic. Hence, we need to encourage digital education as that is the future of learning.  

You can extend your support to achieving a literate society by supporting educational institutions in less privileged communities with access to digital education tools. Happy International Literacy Day!

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