UNESCO honours lives changed by literacy with 2016 International Literacy Prizes

© UNESCO/Ignacio Marin

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has awarded the 2016 International Literacy Prizes to five bold and innovative projects pushing for literacy progress in India, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Presenting the prizes on the 50th Anniversary of International Literacy Day on September 8, 2016, Ms Bokova said: “This has been an incredible day celebrating one of the most important achievements of UNESCO – to put literacy on the global agenda.”

“Each one of today's prize-winners is a story of humanism that has helped people discover their dignity and made inclusion a reality. The biggest lesson is that illiteracy is not inevitable. We can drive change through concerted efforts, political will, dedication, innovation and sharing best practices. Literacy can achieve the overarching goal of the 2030 agenda - to leave no one behind” 

This year the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize, sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea, was awarded to the Center for Knowledge Assistance and Community Development’s programme Books for rural areas of Vietnam and to the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia of the University of Mahidol in Thailand for its programme Patani Malay-Thai Bi/Multilingual Education Project.

The UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy was awarded to the South African Department of Basic Education for its Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign; the Jan Shikshan Sansthan organization in Kerala, India, for its programme, Vocational Skill Development for Sustainable Development, and the Directorate of Literacy and National Languages in Senegal for its National Education Programme for Illiterate Youth and Adults through ICTs.

Accepting the award for the Thailand programme Ms Suwilai Presrirat, Professor of Linguistics at the research Institute for Languages and Cultues of Asia said: “Ethnic culture and language are humanity’s treasure. For Patani-Malay children struggling to learn in school, using their mother tongue was a key to their hearts and part of a peace-building process.”

Today’s celebrations also included the launch of the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III), which outlines the contribution of adult learning to the 2030 global Agenda and calls for further investment in lifelong learning.

Also launched was the Global Alliance for Literacy, a cross-sector partnership to help UNESCO Member States boost progress towards the literacy targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 for education.

Panelist at the launch HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO special Envoy on Literacy for Development said: “I am excited about GAL and its role as a catalyser. It is a new platform that continues the hard work but dares to take a leap forward.”

International Literacy Day was proclaimed by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1966, on recommendation of the 1965 World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy, held in Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran. 

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