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News from UNESCO Brasilia Office: “Alphabet of Hope” launched in Brazil in the run-up to CONFINTEA VI

Ceilândia (Brazil) – The UNESCO Brasilia Office (UBO) has been promoting a series of events to prepare and mobilise civil society and governments for the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI), which will be taking place in Belém, Brazil this year. On 18 February, the Brasilia Office launched the book “The Alphabet of Hope” in an Adult Education school in the Federal District of Ceilândia. 

The event attracted around 250 people, including local government and community representatives, NGOs, teachers, and – most importantly of all – adults currently studying at the school. The Director of UNESCO in Brazil, Mr Vincent Defourny, and the Secretary of Education for the Federal District, Mr José Luiz Valente, were also present. The book consists of 15 essays on literacy, written by authors from a variety of countries, including China and Brazil.

As part of the launch, a group of students from the school presented a dramatised reading of three stories from the book. Other adult students shared their experiences of adult continuing education and spoke of how literacy had transformed their lives. The event highlighted the importance of lifelong education and learning for people of all ages, both for social and economic reasons and for personal development and pleasure.

“This book was seen as a means of communicating the meaning and importance of reading and writing in people’s lives. In spite of existing initiatives and the efforts by UNESCO and the international community, there are still 776 million men and women of all ages and from all cultural backgrounds who are still far from achieving the human right to literacy and discovering the treasures that the alphabet has to offer,” said Vincent Defourny. 

In the book’s preface, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura states that “access to reading material, appropriate publications and libraries is inadequate, making it even more difficult for recently literate people to develop their reading and writing abilities”. An estimated 16% of the adult population worldwide lack the basic reading and writing abilities they need in order to participate fully in society – and approximately two thirds of them are women. Unless the current trend changes, in excess of 700 million adults will still be unable to read or write by 2015.

“The Alphabet of Hope” was published as part of the Writers for Literacy initiative, which UNESCO is promoting in the context of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) as a means of developing a sustainable literate environment for all. The launch of the book also marks the start of activities leading up to CONFINTEA VI.