Today, four in five African primary-school-age kids are enrolled in school, with more joining at a later age. This is a major change and achievement, and should bode well for Africa’s upcoming generations. Only 20 years ago, barely half the kids were in school. Progress has been faster even for girls, with the gender gap in net primary school enrollment now down to four percentage points (compared with eight percentage points in 1995).
Following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, attention to education increased dramatically. At least in terms of enrollment, this seems to have paid off, so much so that education has lost its earlier top spot on the international development agenda. Since 2000, the solutions train has been set in motion, the illiteracy challenge seems to be taken care of, and attention has shifted elsewhere.
Against this background, the latest Word Bank report “Poverty in a Rising Africa” finds that 42% of Africa’s adults, about two in five, or a whopping 215 million people, are still illiterate, down from 46% in 1995. And make no mistake; this does not imply functional literacy for the remaining part of the population. The literacy tests applied are simply too rudimentary, and gross secondary school enrollment rates also only still stand at 46%.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.International Literacy Day is observed globally on 8 September as a way to celebrate how literacy skills can transform lives and also to bring attention to the millions of people who lack access to basic education or literacy programs. This year's theme is "literacy and sustainable societies".
UNESCO’s 2015 Education For All Global Monitoring Report found that neither the Millennium Development Goal pertaining to universal education nor the Education for All goals, established in 2000 at the World Education Forum, have been met. By the 2015 deadline, one in six children in low and middle income countries – or almost 100 million – have not completed primary school, and there are still 781 million adults who lack basic literacy skills.
Not only is illiteracy a problem for current children who hope to achieve great things in life, it is also a problem for their children. Not being able to read or write prevents individuals from certain jobs, accessing information on health care and other services, and from learning. This can lead to unemployment or under payment, further exacerbating poverty. In turn, the children of the poor are more prone to ill heath, exploitation and being illiterate themselves.
Fortunately, literacy programs could actually break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The Education for All research team estimated in 2014, “If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12 percent cut in world poverty.”
Do Not Read This is an initiative of Destination Literacy, Room to Read's campaign to reach 10 million children by the end of 2015. The following video demonstrates how integral literacy is to our daily lives and urges viewers to help give the gift of literacy to others who may otherwise never have the chance to learn.
In India, the bulk of labor participation is in the informal sector, trapped in a vicious cycle of low skills, low wages, and low productivity. The vast majority of these individuals do not have the basic functional literacy needed for upping their job skills, and leveraging these gains to escape their cycle of poverty.The encouraging news is that there are numerous efforts under way to dramatically turn this situation around — including a successful program of using subtitles for Bollywood movies (see "Better Late than Never" in Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches, 2014).