Literacy: Progress on the Home Front

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia has made considerable progress in providing skills through adult literacy that remains one of the powerful tools for national development. Last Friday, countries across the world celebrated International Literacy Day and at an event held in the capital, Member of Parliament Reggie Diergaardt, who delivered the main address on behalf of ex-prime minister Hage Geingob, said, “Progress has been attained through adult literacy and non-formal education programmes in many countries including Namibia.” In 1991, Namibia’s adult illiteracy rate stood at 35 percent and based on the Population Housing Census 2001, only 19.3 percent remained illiterate. This was after the Ministry of Education and the Directorate of Adult Basic Education engaged in the National Literacy Programme in 1992 with the main aim of increasing the adult literacy rate to 90 percent by 2015. “Experience and research have shown that literacy can be a major tool for eradicating poverty, enlarging employment opportunities, advancing gender equality, improving family health, protecting the environment and promoting democratic participation,” said Diergaardt. He added that although adult literacy has improved in recent decades in the country and beyond, it needs to accelerate if it is to overtake the rate of population growth. “Literacy skills through adult education programmes make us all to be adult learners if we all want to achieve our vision of liberation from poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease,” he said. Diergaardt further urged Namibians not to take literacy for granted or under-estimate its importance. Newly literate adults are empowered by the acquisition of literacy skills that later enable them to access opportunities once beyond their reach. “The Namibian Government and its people committed themselves to ‘Education for All’, stressing the importance of lifelong learning as it will fulfill our new responsibilities at work, for teacher/facilitators upgrading, for coping with changes in society and technology and for reacting effectively to HIV/AIDS,” he added. Celebrated under the theme, ‘Literacy Sustains Development’, UNESCO Representative Mukatimui Chabala, speaking on behalf of the UNESCO Country Representative, Dr Claudia Harvey, said that: “This year’s theme sought to highlight the fact that literacy is not merely a cognitive skill of reading and writing but that it helps in the acquisition of learning and life skills which if strengthened by usage and applied throughout people’s lives can lead to development at all levels.” She also stressed that even if there is progress in the field of adult literacy, sustainability of literacy is not assured as dropout rates remain high. “Globally, adult literacy is allocated only one percent of the national budget. By their actions governments and aid agencies show that they do not assign sufficient priority to literacy programmes for adults and youths,” she said. Globally, there are 771 million adults living without basic literacy skills and two thirds of them are women. Over 100 million children are still not enrolled in primary school and more than half of them are girls.

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