REGIONAL LITERACYThe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has selected the theme ‘Literacy and Peace’ for this year‘s commemoration of International Literacy Day, which will be celebrated on September 8th.

This year’s theme falls under UNESCO’s broader 2009-2011 theme, ‘Literacy and Empowerment’, which seeks to establish the link between a literate society and a motivated society which strives towards development.

 

A large number of nations throughout the world are grappling with illiteracy and the fact that it often hinders the population from aiming to act as leaders and thinkers.According to data from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 793 million adults – most of them girls and women - are illiterate. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education.

An illiterate society is often a de-motivated society. On the contrary, a literate society, one which equips its students with literacy skills for life, will be a society that is better geared towards development and growth. We need therefore to develop people who are prepared to be deep thinkers.

Also, if we are to truly move forward, the word literacy must not be confined to its educational connotation. Literacy in all areas of life is needed if an individual, and subsequently a country is to benefit from a good ‘quality of life’. Therefore, it is incumbent on all the Government and people of a country to recognise the invaluable benefits of developing a nation of literate people. The positive gains to a nation which has invested in the development of a literate people is not only measurable in terms of productivity and financial stability but also by the lack of criminal activity.,

As we prepare to celebrate “International Literacy day”, we must embrace the wider definition of literacy. We need to focus on our literacy as it relates to our health, finances and spirituality and all other aspects of our lives, if indeed we intend to become a well-balanced people.

Where do we begin?

The advances made in understanding brain development have provided concrete evidence that the “early years of life” are the most critical and require positive stimulation if a child is to become literate. The home environment plays a vital role in this process and indeed in the total development of the child.

It is our responsibility then, to provide the conditions which will lead a child to become a functionally literate member of society, by examining all the factors which will impact on a child be it positive or negative. Early interventions are needed to combat negative effects such as violence, lack of stimulation materials and the absence of literate adults who can provide positive stimulation in the life of the child.

The Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI) has been investing resources into developing a Caribbean model for family literacy and family learning. Building upon its work to enhance the early childhood care environment, the Family Learning Programme (FLP) was developed as a regional approach to increase community based as well as national capacity to deliver family learning programmes and to increase awareness of the importance of family learning among parents, practitioners and policy makers.

The Focus

Our focus on literacy should not just relate to International Literacy Day, but instead, literacy should always be a concern as we must be constantly seeking ways of bringing literacy to children, families and communities. The Family Learning Programme (FLP), an initiative of the Caribbean Child Support Initiative is now urging every one, including those in the public and private sector to “Do something”. Indeed, we all can do something to make a difference in the literacy level of our people. Let us begin to focus on doing something to inculcate literacy habits in our people. A drive for literacy will assist our people to become more critical thinkers and empower them to have better health literacy in order to enjoy better standards of living.

Let us take action as we celebrate yet another International Literacy Day. Even the smallest step can make a difference. Here are some things you can do:

  • Volunteer at a school and to the children
  • Work with the National Enrichment Programme and mount a literacy campaign in your community for the adults
  • Begin once more to have the community story telling sessions under the full moon, to inculcate community spirit and bring back some of our cultural events
  • Offer to run parenting programmes in your community- preschools and day-care centres are always looking for experts
  • Donate extra books that you may have at home. You can adopt a pre-school and send your books there

Come on! Let’s all play our part in building a literate region. Remember:

“Strong and literate individuals are raised in communities where everyone takes responsibility for each other”.