Today, the 8th of September, the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) and its members, is excited to join the rest of the world in commemorating World Literacy Day. The national World Literacy Day will be held at St Johns Chikwaka, Goromonzi in Mashonaland East Province. World Literacy Day highlights the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. Reading and writing are critical to individuals, communities, and society at large and we cannot do without reading, especially in this age of information technology where all subjects are dependent on one’s ability to read. Literacy and reading are essential skills that help us learn and achieve an understanding of the world around us. They also help in proper communication and making communities stronger. The International Literacy Day 2023 is celebrated under the theme ‘Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies’.
According to UNESCO, in low- and middle-income countries, the share of 10-year-old children who could not read and understand a simple text with comprehension has increased from 57 % in 2019 to an estimated 70 % in 2022. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zim Stat), the national literacy rate is at 93,7 % with urban areas having a literacy rate of 97,1% and rural areas 91,3%. The recent COVID-19 crisis and other crisis, such as climate change and conflicts, have been intensifying the challenges. International Literacy Day 2023 will be an opportunity to join efforts to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education and lifelong learning and to reflect on the role of literacy in building more inclusive, peaceful, just, and sustainable societies.
As a result, for this years’ theme to be a reality, it is important for the government and all stakeholders to prioritize investment in education through: Embracing digital assisted learning in all schools and explore what it means for the poor and vulnerable children especially those in rural areas. This is very critical for enhancement of literacy and numeracy skills that in turn contribute to sustainable and peaceful societies. Sustainable and peaceful societies can be better attained if there is collective effort towards addressing literacy and numeracy gaps among children excluded from the school system. We need to intensify basic education support programs in hard-to-reach areas that have higher percentages of children who have never been to school, or those who have dropped out as early as Primary level. These includes supporting them with basic reading materials (sponsoring community libraries) and stationery, scholarships targeting everyone especially children from marginalized communities, community reading and raising awareness on the importance of literacy.