If you can read and comprehend this, you should not take it for granted.
Being literate opens the door to accessing basic and sometimes necessary information.
But unfortunately, many people still struggle with acquiring that skill.
However, today, International Literacy Day 2022, gives us the perfect opportunity to recommit to ensuring quality, equitable and inclusive education for all.
Since 1967, International Literacy Day celebrations have taken place annually globally, to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda toward a more literate and sustainable society.
In 1979, according to global statistics, only 68 per cent of the world’s population knew how to read and write. In 2020, that figure rose to 86.7 per cent.
Despite the progress made, literacy challenges persist, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimating that globally, at least 771 million young people and adults lack basic literacy skills today.
School closures and other disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have further stymied global literacy efforts.
According to UNESCO, in the aftermath of the pandemic nearly 24 million learners may never return to formal education.
The theme for this year’s International Literacy Day is Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces.
The Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay has said International Literacy Day is an opportunity “to assess progress and spur momentum towards celebrating literacy as an essential human right that plays a fundamental role within our societies.”
Today is, therefore, a good day to celebrate and honour those who have been fighting to help address our literacy situation.
Two of those organisations celebrate their 30th anniversary this year.
In 1992, the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) was formed and has been providing classes nationwide for thousands of citizens who struggle with reading and writing.
Also in 1992, Moms for Literacy was birthed to address the growing literacy needs of children between the ages of four to 17.
The 1994 ALTA and 1995 UWI National Literacy Surveys showed that 22-23 per cent of our population aged 15 and over, are unable to cope with everyday reading and writing.
ALTA’s survey found that more than 60,000 adults in T&T could not read even three of the following words: to, at, love, sun and bet.
We have seen the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our children with this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment examination results, where only 37 per cent scored higher than 50 per cent. Of the 19,079 who wrote the exam, some 9,000 pupils who scored less than 50 per cent in the SEA entered secondary school this week.
But what of the many others who may have fallen through the cracks and may never find their way back into the system?
Who knows now whether the good work done by ALTA and Moms for Literacy has been undone by the pandemic, after it forced children to the realm of virtual learning which many could not access.
Now is the time for us to come together and find out exactly where we are as a country concerning literacy and actively try to correct any shortcomings that may exist.