Sunday, 8 September 2019 marks International Literacy Day and this year’s theme is “Literacy and Multilingualism”.
We’d like to use this day as an opportunity to draw your attention to the serious problem of illiteracy for the future development of our planet and its people. Today, there are still 750 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds of whom are women. In addition, 617 million children can not read a simple sentence, even after several years in school. Knowing how to read is an essential skill for working and earning a living, but also for fully exercising your right as a citizen. It is for this reason that UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) calls for “ensuring that all young people and a considerable proportion of adults, both men and women, know how to read, write and count.”
Here, at Aide et Action, we believe that without education no economic, social, ecological and political progress is possible. Our mission is to advance the cause of education for all, especially primary education for vulnerable people whose fundamental right to education is not respected or is in jeopardy. Education holds the power to reduce poverty, prevent environmental disasters and reduce violence and conflict and we consider the fact that millions of people are missing out on an education as an emergency that needs our urgent attention.
According to UNESCO, if all children in low-income countries left school knowing how to read, 171 million people could escape poverty and each year of additional schooling would allow a person to increase their average income by approximately 10% to 20%. The impact of education is far reaching: a child whose mother knows how to read has a 50% chance of surviving beyond the age of five and only a 10% increase in the secondary school enrollment rate can reduce the risk of conflict by 3%.
Advancing the cause of education is at the core of all our work and we have several literacy projects around the world. In Burkina Faso, where nearly 3.5 million women (58% of the adult population) are illiterate, our project “Learning to Change” has set up literacy centers which will be managed by local communities in an autonomous and sustainable way. In Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal, we are organizing adult literacy classes to take place at end of regular children’s classes. In mountainous and isolated areas of northern Vietnam we are also carrying out a project which, in line with the theme of International Literacy Day 2019, is creating multilingual schooling opportunities for marginalized children from ethnic minority backgrounds. We believe that these projects and the many more we are doing around the world, have the power to create lasting change.