Anna is a staff writer for the Sustainable Development category of JustMeans. She has experience working for international organisations – both in the public and private sectors – in Africa, Asia and Europe. Anna is interested in collaborative approaches to sustainability, poverty reduction and international development....
Literacy for Sustainable Development
Literacy is fundamental to helping societies acquire the skills to lift themselves out of poverty and work towards sustainable development. Today is International Literacy Day - an occasion to celebrate that there are close to four billion literate people in the world, but also raise awareness that there remains one in five adults in the developing world, amounting to almost 872 million people, who cannot read or write. Two-thirds of them are women.
Low levels of literacy, and education in general, can severely impede the economic development of a country. The highest illiteracy rates are found in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia and South America, where women's illiteracy can exceed 70%.
A primary reason for this is a lack of enrollment in school. There are over 100 million children worldwide who are not enrolled in school. Primary education is not free in many developing countries, and consequently poverty goes hand in hand with children missing out on education. However, the introduction of free primary education in developing countries is becoming more frequent. With the help of donor funds and debt relief, in 2002, Tanzania eliminated primary school tuition fees, leading to a massive increase in the number of children enrolled in school. The case of Tanzania shows that even for what is still one of the poorest countries in the world, children can be given their basic right to attend primary school.
Another hindrance to combating illiteracy is a lack of sufficient resources. Every year, huge amounts of educational materials used in schools in developed countries become outdated. Education for All is a trust that helps redistribute educational supplies to schools and educational projects in developing countries around the world. Working with organisations from both the public and private sectors, the trust recognises that through collaboration, particularly with the strengths of the private sector behind them, more can be achieved.
One of their case studies tells the story of Hebron Primary School in South Africa, which had been severely neglected for several years. Classrooms consisted of brick and corrugated metal, over-spilling with children cramped onto old benches with little in the form of educational resources. Through its partnerships, Education for All provided the school with chairs, desks, books and stationary, offering a secure and pleasant learning environment for the children to develop in.
Literacy is an extremely important goal for the realisation of the eight millennium development goals, helping to boost health and wealth rates, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, transmission of HIV, malaria and other diseases and ensure environmental sustainability. In order for countries and continents to progress towards sustainable development, education is the key point that must be at the forefront of every government's political agenda.