10.09.2013 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

International Literacy Day 2013 celebrated in New Delhi

World-wide the International Literacy Day (ILD) was celebrated by UNESCO in 2013, with a specific focus on ‘Literacies for the 21st century’. As the world moves towards the 2015 horizon for the Education for All goals, and the Millennium Development Goals, deliberation on literacy globally, and for the South Asian region, become increasingly important to setting the agenda for the post-2015 world, in which our current challenges seem poised to persist.

It is also an important opportunity, for countries to come together to address their context, and recognize the tremendous strides which have been made in the recent years in the area of enhancing literacy and closing the gender gap. On the 8th of September 2013, International Literacy Day celebrations were organized by the Government of India, the National Literacy Mission Authority of India, and UNESCO, in New Delhi. The occasion, which followed the International Conference of the Alliance for Literacy, Peace, and Development in South Asia held on 7th September 2013, was graced by the Hon’ble President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, and an illustrious panel which included the Minister for Human Resource Development of India, Dr Pallam Raju, Ministers of State for Human Resource Development, Dr Shashi  Tharoor, and Mr Jitin Prasada, and the UNESCO New Delhi Office Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Mr Shigeru Aoyagi.

His Excellency, the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, inaugurated the conference and called for renewed vigour towards the cause of literacy. He congratulated the National Literacy Mission Authority of India for winning the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for 2013, and distributed Saksharta Awards to winners from among State Literacy Mission Authorities of India.

In his address to the audience, the Hon’ble President said it was gratifying to note the progress which had been made, but that India’s literacy rate still remained below the world average, and this called for concerted efforts and turning our attention to the literacy of the girl child and women. He said, ‘The success of our literacy programme ultimately depends on the willingness and cooperation of the people. I call upon each and every citizen of our country to take up this challenge and contribute in making our country free from the clutches of illiteracy.’

Mr Aoyagi reaffirmed the importance of the Education for All, and the Millennium Development Gaols, calling for the global, regional, and national ownership of these objectives. UNESCO, as the lead agency for the Education for All, and United Nations Literacy Decade, continues its efforts to catalyse the exchange of ideas and efforts to promote greater access and better quality of literacies and education around the world, and in South Asia. He also presented a quote from UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova’s message for ILD 2013: ‘Literacy is much more than an educational priority–it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the twenty-first century. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and to use this skill to gain autonomy. On this International Literacy Day, we call on governments to work together to achieve this dream. This requires new funding ,policies drawn up with the populations concerned, new and more innovative forms of action, taking full advantage of new technologies. The progress made in recent years shows that this is possible, and UNESCO is committed to doing all that it can to make it happen’.

The Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr Pallam Raju, launched on the occasion, a Basic Education programme for Adults. Learning material for the programme was formally released, and the first copy was presented to the President.

Dr Pallam Raju further put forth cause for encouragement and optimism by stating that the aim of India’s Sakshar Bharat programme should be to attain 100% literacy by the year 2017. Dr Tharoor spoke of the important link between literacy and development, and Mr Jitin Prasada addressed the relevance of literacy and education to the economy.

The celebrations were also attended by representatives who participated in the International Conference on Literacy, Peace and Development in South Asia – Minister for Education of Afghanistan, Mr Ghulam Farooq Wardak, Member of Parliament of Sri Lanka, Mr Mohan LalGrero, Ambassador of Bhutan, Mr V. Namgyel, High Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr Salman Bashir, and Ministers of Education of states within India. The event was attended by around 1,000 participants which included representative from States Literacy Mission Authorities of India, Zila Panchayats, the academica, and civil society.

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