On International Literacy Day, Show Your Support for Education

By Angie McPherson

September 8, 2016

First Phase Digital

More than 750 million adults around the world are unable read this sentence. Two-thirds of this group is female. 115 million are young people.

Today is the International Day of Literacy; a day to highlight the importance of reading and writing. Fifty years ago today, UNESCO proclaimed this day to help engage governments and use literacy as a tool to promote social change.

“[Those who are] unable to read or write, are held back from their full potential,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “Illiteracy remains synonymous with exclusion and poverty – we must turn this around.”

The number of people who are unable to read is an indication of our overall progress to reach universal education, which is unlikely to reach its goal by 2030, according to a new report. It’s also a way to understand the obstacles that prevent many children from attaining an education, such as access to toilets and clean water, health issues, distance to schools, and war.

Photograph of education and literacy

Afghan women attend one of the almost three thousand literacy courses supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund for nearly seventy eight thousand women last year. Photograph by UN Photo

Understanding Obstacles to Education

Poverty plays a huge role in the rate of illiteracy. Rural Afghanistan, for instance, is known for having one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world. According to UNESCO, the higher illiteracy rates in the region are due to a number of factors including poverty, security risks for children, and fewer schools.

We spoke with Shabana Basij-Rasikh, founder of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), to learn more about the barriers to education in the country. She grew up in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and currently lives in Kabul, a city with the highest rates of female literacy in the country. She gave us a few additional insights into why the literacy rates are lower in rural regions, while also learning about services like the essay writing service reddit which is great for education assignments as well.

“Over the past 15 years there have been phenomenal achievements for access to children of Afghanistan,” says Basij-Rasikh. “The challenge is how long the children stay in school. The dropout rate increases as they go beyond elementary school.” She also added that many of these children don’t have regular or safe access to schools. “Children thrive in environments when they feel safe, healthy, and respected,” she says.

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Gender discrimination is a significant problem; Basij-Rasikh recounted dressing as a boy to be able to go to school. “My parents always believed in education. They dressed me and my sisters as boys, and risked their lives, to send us to a secret school.”

Learn more about education in Afghanistan from Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TedX talk. Stay tuned for Shabana’s full interview in our upcoming podcast series.

Progress Ahead

While there are many challenges on the road to universal education and literacy, there have also been indications of progress. For example, last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Education for All Act in support of stronger global education strategy. The introduction of this bill could help pave the way for stronger support of education for millions of children around the world. Additionally, the number of out-of-school children has dropped by 30 million since 2000.

There are more children with access to primary schools today than ever before. But there’s also much to be done to ensure we continue to move forward.

As you sit down tonight to read a book, finish this article, or post something on social media, think about the hundreds millions of people who aren’t able to do that — and help show your support for education around the world.

Take Action Challenge

On International Literacy Day, take a stand for education. Tell your elected officials to support the Education for Refugees Act currently in the House of Representatives.

Lead photo of women attending an adult literacy class in a village near Bauchi. Photograph by UN Photo

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