Today is International Literacy Day. Like other countries, Bangladesh is observing the day with the global theme 'Literacy and Multilingualism'. As the theme suggests, this year International Literacy Day is providing us with an opportunity to express solidarity with the celebrations of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages and the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Special Needs Education, at which the Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education was adopted.
International Literacy Day is celebrated to create awareness among people about the need and importance of literacy and education for every human being. On this day events and programmes are planned and organized to motivate and inspire people to achieve literacy and to eradicate illiteracy and ignorance from the world.
Practically we can see that a blind man cannot see anything of the world. He cannot enjoy the beauty of nature and the strangely beautiful world. He has no eyesight. He cannot enjoy light and remains in darkness. He leads a very helpless and dependent life. Similarly, an illiterate person cannot read or write. He is to some extent like a blind man. He cannot enter the world of knowledge without the help of others. Though he can see books, magazines, newspapers, posters, he cannot understand the writings therein. For want of literacy, he also depends on others as a blind man does. Illiteracy is a curse on him.
To remove the evil curse of global illiteracy and to promote literacy rate all over the world, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) proclaimed the 8th September as the International Literacy Day. The proclamation was made at the 14th session of UNESCO’s General Conference on 26 October, 1966. Thereafter, the day has been celebrated around the world since 1967.
Currently, about 83 per cent people around the world are literate and about 17 percent persons are still illiterate, and fumble in darkness. At present about 100 crore people are still illiterate all over the world. This large and vast number of people is deprived of literacy or minimum education. But education is the fundamental rights of every man, woman, and child. We express our thoughts, ideas, sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice by means of education. Education gives us knowledge and knowledge is our power, and this power comes from education. Education is very essential for our life and livelihood. Without education we are like blind people. So, everyone must have the right of having education.
Education in Bangladesh is a fundamental right of men, women and children. This right is enshrined in our Constitution. Article 15 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh about fundamental rights states, “It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people with a view to securing to its citizens - (a) the provision of the basic necessities of life including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.”
Despite Constitutional rights, Bangladesh has not yet achieved hundred per cent literacy rate. But literacy rate in Bangladesh is promoting and progressing appreciably fast. According to a statistical source, about seventy three per cent Bangladeshi people are literate. But more effective drive may be needed to eliminate and eradicate illiteracy from Bangladesh.
Literacy means the ability of a person to read and write. And the standard for determining of literacy rate changed with the passage of time. Around 1901 the standard of literacy was set in the Census Document. According to the document literacy at that time meant the ability of a person to write and know only the letters needed to write his or her own name. Towards 1940, the definition of literacy was changed. Here literacy meant ability of a person to learn the skill needed for mere reading and writing. In 1960, the definition of literacy was a bit modified and expanded. This time literacy meant a person’s ability and skill in calculation in addition to the ability for mere reading and writing. In 1980, again the definition of literacy was further expanded. This time awareness and ability of a person to read the visible writings were added to the definition of literacy. Currently literacy embraces communication, empowerment, and means of livelihood, protection and organizing power including all other previous criteria of the definition of literacy.
The ranking position of Bangladesh in the world in respect of literacy is reputable and praiseworthy. To improve and promote its image and position, Bangladesh should draw up a comprehensive but realistic plan and programme to reduce the rate of illiteracy. If we can bring down the illiteracy rate to the zero point, we shall be able to raise our heads with pride in the world. We can feel proud as nationals of Bangladesh.
Primary schools and madrasa at the grassroots level can play very important role in saving the nation from the curse of illiteracy. In Bangladesh about 5 crore people are still illiterate. The children of remote areas, char areas, coastal areas, haors and far off places are to be imbued with literacy. Thus, we can make Bangladesh a literate country.
Government is very aware of the illiteracy issue. Hence, in the current FY, government allocated a large sum of money in the budget for education sector. If this money is spent timely and properly, we hope that our country will surely and certainly go ahead towards literacy.
If we look at other countries, outside Bangladesh, we find that the more the country is literate, the more the country is developed. Russia, the UK, the USA, Germany etc. are the best examples.
In fine, I must draw a conclusion with the urge to all concerned to realize that illiteracy is a serious impediment to our development. And we have to overcome this impediment to reap the success of development. And with the progress of literacy rate, we have to develop and improve our moral character, moral values, and build a peaceful society; otherwise, the enhancement of literacy rate will be valueless. And in doing so, concerted efforts, cooperation, dedication, honesty and sincerity will essentially be needed.
The writer is a regular
contributor to Bangladesh Post