Once again this year, Jamaica joins UNESCO and the rest of the world in marking September 8 as International Literacy Day. This year, International Literacy Day puts the spotlight on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and development. 'Literacy and Empowerment' is also the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012).

 

Once again this year, Jamaica joins UNESCO and the rest of the world in marking September 8 as International Literacy Day. This year, International Literacy Day puts the spotlight on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and development. 'Literacy and Empowerment' is also the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012).

 

In his message for ILD 2009, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura bemoans the fact that while the empowering role of literacy and its significance for development have been recognized worldwide, there are still 776 million illiterate adults in the world and 75 million children out of school whose rights and needs remain unfulfilled. Literacy, in fact, is by far the most neglected goal on the Education for All (EFA) agenda. He opines,

'Despite clear evidence of the power of literacy to transform individual lives and patterns of social development, in many parts of the world there is neither the political will nor the resources to make youth and adult literacy an area of priority action. In consequence, those whose lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills is not being addressed - almost one in six adults - are being told that their rights, their needs and their hopes do not count. This is an unconscionable situation whose blatant injustice must not be allowed to continue.'

Jamaica's Education Minister Andrew Holness in his message argued that his administration has given tangible commitment to the eradication of illiteracy:

'The Ministry of Education has budgeted $500 million dollars this year to bring the number of literacy specialists up to 90 and the number of numeracy specialists to 70. The literacy programme will give support to classroom teachers, while Principals and senior staff members will be assisted in executing their responsibilities as literacy leaders…Each school will be given literacy targets to achieve after consultation with their respective boards and principals. Whatever the final benchmarks, I remain optimistic about our goals, albeit tempered (as always) with a healthy dose of realism.'

International Literacy Day was created by UNESCO and has been celebrated every year since 1966. This annual celebration started following a recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy which met in Tehran in September 1965. On this day, the Director-General of UNESCO addresses a message to the world, appealing to individuals, organizations and states to demonstrate their support and solidarity for literacy and to promote non-formal education for all, particularly for those who have been excluded from the school system.