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“Literacy is the first step towards freedom, towards liberation from social and economic constraints. It is the prerequisite for development, both individual and collective. It reduces poverty and inequality, creates wealth, and helps to eradicate problems of nutrition and public health.”

— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UNESCO

Message on the occasion of the International Literacy Day

A little background history about the International Literacy Day. International Literacy Day was created in 1966 with the sole aim of eradicating all levels of illiteracy in the world. For over 53 years, September 8th has been the date chosen to commemorate this unanimous decision among world leaders. This day is primarily observed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) who gives out awards to acknowledge the efforts of individuals, bodies as well as countries making strides to eradicate illiteracy all over the world.

This year’s International Literacy Day comes amid trying times. The recent coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all the modes of learning we’ve come to know and love. Since the start of the pandemic, over 1.6 billion learners in up to 190 countries have been disrupted due to lockdowns and preventive measures all over the world. 94% of students have been affected worldwide due to this pandemic and even 99% in third world countries. Over 23.7 million students may or may not have access to schooling next year due to the pandemic’s impact alone.  The pandemic has awoken us to the harsh reality that our policies and structures are not as advanced as they should be in current situations. There are gaps in our learning structures which the coronavirus has viciously exposed. Schools and learning facilities that aren’t capable of transitioning to teaching online have been most affected by this COVID-19 crisis.

So how are educators coping with the current changes in literacy teaching? Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been a host of new innovations in the educational sector created to cope with the changes. Educators have taken to the use of the internet in bridging the gap between students and educators. Applications such as google classroom, pear deck, swivl, quilgo, zoom, etc. have been used to propagate online classes. While these are great solutions coming at a much needed time, we still have much more to do, especially in systems and educational institutions that are funded externally. Governments need to come together to decide a new course of action. Does the school year extend into the next? Is the curriculum adjusted to fit in the months missed? These, and many more, are the questions that need to be answered. Provisions need to be made across the board such that every student has an equal opportunity to attain an education.

The current literacy education pedagogy is slowly changing to adapt these times and we owe our educators all the merits for their ability to cope and adapt to everything currently going on. Sooner rather than later, these will all pass and the status quo will be restored or be adapted to.

Until then, changes need to be made to ensure the educational sector can thrive regardless of a pandemic or a country’s development.

Literacy is undoubtedly the first step to this new kind of freedom.

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