India launches flagship literacy programme
India celebrated International Literacy Day on 8 September 2009 by launching Saakshar Bharat, a flagship programme that aims to reach 70 million non-literates in the next five years, the majority of them women.
Nicholas Burnett, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, spoke at the launch event in New Delhi in the presence of India ’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the speaker of Parliament, several ministers and the director of the country’s National Literacy Mission. Stating that UNESCO and India shared a deep commitment to literacy, he applauded India ’s new effort that is “an expression of your country’s firm conviction that no social progress can happen without educating women.”
Noting that all evaluations of Education for All point to the persistence of deep disparities, he commended the new policy “explicitly aimed at bridging these disparities by targeting women and making education a catalyst of the country’s economic and social development.”
The new programme, he said, connects with the priorities of the second half of the United Nations Literacy Decade, namely bolder commitment to literacy, improved programme delivery and additional resources. He also warned that in the context of the global economic crisis, “the foremost responsibility of governments and the international community is to protect the most vulnerable groups and ensure that they are not denied access to education and social services.”
Focused mainly on rural areas, Saakshar Bharat will also target scheduled castes, tribes and minorities. In addition to basic literacy it will promote skills development and continuing education to ensure that neo-literates can acquire equivalencies to the formal education system and improve their livelihoods.
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