Statistics of global monitoring reports show that, nearly two third of the world population stays well below the minimum literacy parameters drawn by UN. South Asian, West Asian and African populations are noted for remaining at lowest graphs of literacy. Mali, Niger and Barkina Faso are reported for their literacy rate being lowest in the world.
“Literacy skills develop from a basic to advanced level throughout life are part of broader competencies required for critical thinking, the sense of responsibility, participatory governance, sustainable consumption and lifestyles, ecological behaviours, biodiversity protection, poverty reduction, and disaster risk reduction….”, maintains the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, in elaborating the multi-facades of ‘literacy’.
This year, the theme of ‘International Literacy Day’(ILD-2014) was “Literacy and Sustainable Development”.
Every year UNESCO’s jury nominates certain organizations and individuals to award ‘Literacy Prizes’. The award-giving ceremony usually takes place in Paris. This year’s prizes, given for the first time in Bangladesh, a leading country of Global Education First Initiative, focused on the powerful links between literacy and sustainable development.
Jointly organized by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bangladesh, in collaboration with UNESCO, and in primary accord with the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), the conference was venued at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre(BICC) Dhaka.
Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration. Literacy is a basis for lifelong learning and plays a crucial foundational role in the formation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies, establishes UNESCO proclamation for ILD-2014.
The UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon mentioned that “Literacy provides tools for men and women to better understand the world and shape it to meet their aspirations.”
Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said that “Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.”
“Some 781 million persons today still cannot read a single sentence – two thirds are women. This cannot stand – the price societies pay is too high,” said UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova. “This is why we must craft an ambitious education agenda to follow 2015… UNESCO is taking this message across the world, acting to ensure literacy is integrated into national development strategies and to promote broader skills for sustainable lifestyles and poverty eradication.”
She underlined the importance of this conference to inform the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development in Nagoya in November and the World Education Forum in the Republic of Korea in 2015.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina outlined her Govermnent’s measures to build a strong education system and the establishment of a Trust Fund to support education for the poorer.
“Education, culture and peace are closely related to each other, “ said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “It is also education that gives women the strength to stand up against any wrong doing and discrimination. I urge the UN and the international community to work together with us on this. We wish to forge an international consensus on girls’ and women’s education as one of the core foundations of sustainable development and a key goal of the post-2015 agenda.”
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said that “We have crossed to a large extent the hurdle of achieving universal primary education and underlined the importance of girls’ education to break the shackles of prejudice. Now our second challenge is to improve the quality of education through the right policies, sustainable funding and durable partnerships.”
Principal investigator of SAIRI Research Initiative Dr. Qadhi Aurangzeb Hafi rememorized for the 2007-08 theme “ Literacy and Health” along-with that of 2011-12 “Literacy and Peace”, and emphasized on their thematic integration with the 2014 theme“ Literacy and Sustainable Development” in the broader contexts of human well-being with ‘peace n prosperity’. Socio-moral and normative literacies are highly emphasized by Dr. Aurangzeb Hafi in the SAIRI report on literacy titled “Stigmatized Illiteracy & The Socio-moral Setback”.
“Re-uniting the previous themes with that of the 2014, in the environmental and ecological sustainability perspectives, with a wide interest and deep inquiry into theliteracy socio-cultural literacies, essentially calls for, and leads towards a ‘composite literacy model’, an integrated normative literacy, which must be placed in, and constituted through moral and humanistic frameworks” established Qadhi Al Hafi, who presented the ‘Composite Literacy Model’ on UN-ILD this year.
Normative, composite, socio-moral and eco-literacies must be vastly and open-heartedly advocated on face of the dilemmas the present era is facing. Prof. Hafi held comparisons in segmented literacy vs composite literacy.
The Education Minister of Bangladesh referred to the challenge of providing education to a rising population as a development priority, and made special note of the country’s achievement of gender parity in primary and secondary education.
The 2014 literacy prizes were awarded to Ecuador’s Basic Education for Youth and Adults Project; Spain’s Lifelong Learning School for Community Development project, the Association for Promoting Non-formal Education from Burkina Faso, the Algerian Association for Literacy and South Africa’s Bridges to the Future Initiative, implemented with the International Literacy Institute (USA).
The Director-General UNESCO presented the Prime Minister the “Tree of Peace” sculpture, prepared by UNESCO Artist for Peace Hevda Ser.
The Inaugural ceremony of the Conference was attended by the Minister of Education Sri Lanka, Bhutan as well.
The Conference adopted the Dhaka Call for Action that outlines measures to accelerate progress “and write the future by putting learning, literacy and education first.” Measures recommended cover sustainable funding, use of appropriate technologies, reinforced collaboration across sectors as well as contents that specifically address the learning needs of girls and women, minorities and marginalized groups.