Editor's Comment

Adult literacy boosts development

THE revival of adult literacy in communities is welcome because it will not only raise literacy levels in the country but also enable more underprivileged citizens to acquire education and contribute to national development.
We commend Government and its partners for launching the adult functional literacy materials.
Functional adult literacy aims at empowering illiterate members of the communities with reading and writing skills, which they can later use to improve their livelihoods.
The assurance by Vice-President Guy Scott that Government is determined to revamp adult literacy programmes is encouraging.
Dr Scott said Government wants to ensure that adult literacy is given back its prominence so that it can contribute to national development.
It is not a secret that illiteracy perpetuates poverty because it limits choices for income generation.
It also limits the capacity of individuals and communities to take preventive measures against diseases as a result of lack of knowledge.
Conversely, literacy broadens choices and equips individuals and communities to protect themselves from preventable diseases.
It also deepens the understanding of individuals and communities of the environment around them and how to sustainably interact with it.
It is in this light that we welcome the announcement by the Vice-President that Government intends to provide adult functional literacy to communities countrywide to reduce illiteracy and improve livelihoods.
This is important because adult literacy is not only an educational issue. It also delivers benefits that are far beyond mere schooling and literacy.
This fact is supported by the Education for All Global Monitoring report released by UNESCO in 2006.
The 1975 Persepolis Declaration and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognise literacy, rather than just education, as a right.
The report reads in part, “The 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education (CDE) specifically tackles the issue of those who have not attended or completed primary education.”
The Persepolis Declaration also states: “Literacy is not an end in itself.  It is a fundamental human right.” (UNESCO, 1975a)
So by strengthening the provision of functional literacy lessons to adults who did not have an opportunity to go through primary school the government is actualising this right, which is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.
And Article 10(e) of CEDAW, which entered into force in 1981, also recognises the right of adults to literacy, calling on parties to ensure that men and women have “the same opportunities for access to programmes of continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes”.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) characterises literacy as a basic skill to which children are entitled and stresses the need to rid the world of illiteracy (UNHCHR, 1989).
We are happy that the Zambian government is fully cognisant of the importance of this form of empowerment and is taking practical steps to ensure all citizens regardless of their age enjoy the right.
There cannot be gender equality in our nation if the vast majority of women, especially those living in the rural parts of our nation, remain illiterate.
And it is for this reason that one of the strategic objectives of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is “to eradicate illiteracy among women”.
Our current republican Constitution places an obligation on the government to ensure citizens have equal access to education.
However, gender imbalances and limited resources have barred many rural adults from accessing this important tool against poverty.
The 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education (CDE) directs states to “encourage and intensify by appropriate methods the education of persons who have not received any primary education or who have not completed the entire primary education course and the continuation of their education on the basis of individual capacity.” (UNESCO, 1960)
It is clear that the provision of adult and functional literacy is a governance issue, and we are happy it is receiving the attention it deserves from our government.

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