September 8th is International Literacy Day.
Worldwide, 775 million people lack literacy skills with some 60 million children out of school. A further 264 million children lack basic literacy skills. Many more attend school irregularly, while others drop out. International Literacy Day is therefore as important today as when it was declared by UNESCO in November 17, 1965.
Since the declaration of International Literacy Day, the concept of literacy has evolved from basic reading, writing and numeracy skills to include a broader spectrum such as functional literacy, with the foundation for lifelong learning. There is a clear correlation between poor literacy rates and severe poverty as those with low literacy skills are far more likely to live in poverty.
Sub-Saharan Africa ranks as the region that is second lowest for literacy rates in the world. 40% of people in this region do not know how to read or write. This is a major problem because wherever there is a high level of illiteracy, poverty is not far behind. At ACT we celebrate International Literacy Day because we understand its importance for the well-being of people. This is why our focus is on education, particularly of disadvantaged children. We are working hard to improve literacy rates among disadvantaged children and needy widows in 8 countries across Africa, including Kenya.
In Kenya, nearly 40 percent of the population is illiterate lacking the minimum literacy levels required to participate in national development. There are 1.5 million school aged children who do not go to school due to poverty and lack of affordability. One in two Kenyan girls will never attend school. Illiteracy is rife within the many slums in Kenya. In Kibera, one of the largest slums in Nairobi, 43 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys do not attend school with some 100,000 orphaned children having no access to public schools.
ACT volunteer Barbara Graham encompasses all the hard work we are putting into the region to improve literacy rates. Barbara’s role as a literacy worker in the Kenyan Pokomo Tribe is an excellent example of how we can help change lives for the best. Barbara has worked with children from as young as 3 years old to read and write in their own language rather than English. The struggle to grasp the English language would often mean many children failed to remember things in English as they did not identify with the language. By teaching them in their own mother tongue the children are able to read more quickly and with better understanding. The improved literacy skills of the children in the tribe have led to better educational attainment at school and higher enrolment, giving these children the means to break through the cycle of poverty.
Education is no doubt, the key route out of poverty. Therefore, the importance of literacy is paramount because it acts as the stepping stone to good educational achievement.
Your support can help ACT put more volunteers like Barbara on the ground and make a huge difference to the lives of the children for the better.
Find out more about our work with children in Africa here.
You can also become a child sponsor and transform their life for good here.