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Education without a doubt is the key to the growth and development of any nation on earth. Unfortunately, the globe is still confronted with challenges related to poor literacy level.

For instance, in 2016, about 775 million adults lacked the common basic minimum literacy skills worldwide. This figure is discouraging; it means that about 1 in 5 adults or about 20% of the global population is illiterate.  Of the 20%, women constitute about 66% of the illiterate population. In addition, about 75% of global children population are not in school or dropped out prior finish.

To combat these challenges, the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 26 October 1966, proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day.

International Literacy Day

At the 14th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference on 26 October, 1966, September 8 was declared International Literacy Day (ILD). The first observance of the annual celebration was on September 8, 1967. The day is a platform for governments, civil societies, and stakeholders to review progresses recorded at improving global literacy rates, and reflect on existing literacy challenges confronting the world.

The topic of literacy is a vital component of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, part of the agenda of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include promoting universal access to quality education and learning opportunities. One of the focal points of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 is ensuring all young people attain literacy and numeracy, and also to make sure adults lacking these skills are presented the opportunity of acquiring them. September 8 was not only meant to combat global illiteracy level, but to also promote literacy as a tool vital towards empowering individuals and communities globally. Each year’s celebration is accompanied with a theme.

International Literacy Day 2019: Literacy and Multilingualism

This year’s celebration presents a unique platform to express solidarity with the celebrations of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (began January 1, 2019 and will end on 31st December 2019), and also the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Special Needs Education which necessitated the adoption of the Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education.

With the theme focused on ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’, discussions in 2019’s International Literacy Day will highlight the major characteristics of multilingualism in a globalized and digitalized world, alongside their implications for literacy in policies and practice so as to reach greater inclusion in multilingual contexts. Despite all the efforts made, challenges confronting world literacy level has persisted, education have been unevenly distributed across countries of the world and populations. It is extremely important to embrace linguistic diversity in education and literacy development because it is central to addressing issues and challenges related to literacy globally and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

Our world is rich and diverse with about 7,000 living languages. These languages are instruments for communication, engagement in lifelong learning, and participation in society and the world of work. They are also closely linked with distinctive identities, cultures, worldviews, and knowledge systems.  Embracing  linguistic  diversity  in  education  and  literacy  development  is  therefore  a  key  part  of  developing  inclusive  societies that  respect “diversity”  and “difference”, upholding human dignity.

Audrey Azoulay (Director General of the UNESCO)



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This article was first published on 8th September 2019


I am a Lion, I love to hit heights that seem impossible so I can motivate others and prove doubters wrong. For me, impossible is nothing. I'm open to learning and I love to read, travel and meet new faces.

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