What should essentially be a basic human right for all is grave enough an issue today only to the extent that warrants a special annual celebration of it to raise awareness of the importance it harbours. That itself is a cause for concern, for what is ideal an way of life continues to elude still millions all over the world, despite also the existence of an exclusive day dedicated to it that has spanned today the years of more than half a century. As the date marking September 8 dawns upon us in 2021 the 54th year of celebration of the UNESCO declared International Literacy Day, this global occasion that highlights the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies continues to be relevant more than ever though in measures that are more appalling than appealing. Celebrated since 1967, the day bears indeed immense significance on paper but to what extent that substance has managed to translate itself in more realistic terms should be a concern given that a substantial 773 million young people and adults are still not literate.
That itself is a huge number, but more so if you view it with respect to the size of the global population that stands today at 7.7 billion. And with the raging coronavirus pandemic that has been threatening lives and livelihoods for almost a couple of years now, this pursuit of the literacy skill has been pushed further to the backfoot, something that has found expression in the 2021 celebrations of Literacy Day. With “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide” as the theme of this year’s observations, the UNESCO attempts to “explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults. It will also explore what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. By doing so, ILD2021 will be an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.”
As a reminder of the critical importance of literacy, the COVID 19 outbreak has provided in fact an opportunity to devise inroads in to how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centred recovery majorly through digital means. Because beyond literacy typically being a tool for ushering in social reforms and empowering the masses, the benefits of it extend also to the sphere of human health and an improvement in the overall quality of human life. In being therefore a bridge from misery to hope, as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan so aptly put it, literacy and by extension International Literacy Day celebrations should provide a way for the world to be better prepared in dealing with the contingencies that inevitably come to shroud the humans of it from time to time, in frequent or infrequent measure. To that extent, this present day celebration of the World Literacy Day yields indeed even greater a role of significance than what it has traditionally assumed ever since its inception several decades back. It perhaps is this continuing fore of relevance that September 8 harbours that makes this observance of the International Literacy Day a profound reality to acknowledge and work upon for its betterment.