INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAYToday, September 8th 2011, the world celebrates International Literacy Day, under the theme ‘Literacy and Peace’. Promoted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), International Literacy Day aims to shine the spotlight on literacy issues and underline the importance of literacy in development and in the fight against violence and poverty, as this year’s theme indicates.

 

Across the world, International Literacy Day is celebrated with various activities and initiatives. One highlight of this year’s celebrations is UNESCO’s hosting of an international conference on ‘Women’s Literacy for Inclusive and Sustainable Development’, in New Delhi, India from September 8 – 10. During this ceremony, UNESCO will award the international Confucius and King Sejong literacy prizes to projects in Burundi, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States of America.

This year’s theme is of particular significance to the Caribbean Child Support Initiative, CCSI (which will become the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children, FDCC in January 2012), as it reinforces the fact that in order to develop a civilised society with a clear prospect for development and to prevent violence and conflicts, great attention must be paid to literacy. This train of thought has always been promulgated by the CCSI and is essential to the very core of the organisation and its various regional programmes.

Literacy, the CCSI believes, unlocks the potential of individuals to create and strive for more fulfilling futures. A literate society is also more capable of achieving greater progress in the fight for justice and equality. Ignoring the importance of literacy has great costs, which include exacerbated poverty, violence and ill-health. A lack of focus on literacy will also result in the general retardation of a nation’s development, by weakening individuals and communities, and thereby, the country.

Even though some progress has been made over the years, illiteracy still affects millions worldwide, especially women and girls. According to data from UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics, there were about 67 million primary-school-aged children and 72-million adolescents who were denied the right to an education, in 2009.

It is with this in mind, that the Family Learning Programme, an initiative of the CCSI, which aims to enhance the early childhood care environment, will be hosting a two-day symposium dubbed ‘Making the Connections : Adult Literacy, Family Literacy and Early Childhood Development’. The symposium will be held October 13-14th at the Palm Haven Hotel in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia and will showcase best practices for both community and institution-based approaches to family learning, including early education and health education.

The symposium will also feature presentations from policy makers and academics engaged in research surrounding issues relating to pre-literacy, family and community learning. Participants will also be enlightened on the work of the CCSI, as it relates to promoting family learning and literacy. The first day of the symposium will be devoted to setting the framework for family literacy and learning in the Eastern Caribbean, and will feature policy and programming presentations as well as research on matters relating to family literacy. The second and final day will see presentations and showcases from promising programmes and innovations that are working to strengthen the early care environment through family learning and literacy.