Fifty years ago, UNESCO declared 8th September International Literacy Day. The goal was, in their words, “To actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.”
In Ghana, the Non Formal Education Division(NFED) of the Ministry of Education was established in 1991, with the mandate to eradicate illiteracy in Ghana by the year 2015. After almost a quarter of a century, the NFED has been utterly unable to craft a coherent national policy to guide achievement of this goal. This is completely unacceptable.
Despite the fact that Ghana’s literacy levels continue to be disputed by researchers (who consider government statistics to be inflated and exaggerated, containing a sizeable number of functional illiterates), one thing is certainly clear: Ghana’s literacy rate continues to fall well below the global average level of 84%.
Certainly, change won’t be easy. There is no simple solution. But clear guidance must be given.
For example, our country’s traditional process of learning is currently embroiled in critical dispute among many researchers, some of whom have made a strong case for young learners first having a firm grasp of their mother tongue before learning a second language. Personally, I believe that ignoring the demonstrated merits of this approach may be negatively affecting many children and their learning development process. Furthermore, inconsistencies and rapid changes in language policy in Ghana have also left key players within the education sector drifting, with no clear direction.
We stand at a crossroads.
In fact, 2016 is the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this context, the vision of literacy according to UNESCO is aligned with lifelong learning opportunities with special focus on youth and adults. Literacy is a part of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
As Ghana goes to the polls in December, it is highly unfortunate that none of the presidential candidates has come out strongly to share their vision of how they will eradicate illiteracy and build the capacity of our most important resource—our people.
In Ghana, Street Library—which has been operating literacy intervention programs for children and young adults in Ghana for five years—will be engaging children in various Reading, Literacy, and Personal Development Activities to commemorate the day. Our libraries and reading hubs in Pokuase, in the Greater Accra Region, and Damang Ahwerase, in the Eastern Region, will host dozens of eager young readers, sharing stories, games, and other learning activities.
About Street Library: Key innovations include a Mobile Library on Wheels that brings critical learning resources, including books and computers, to rural children. This program is generously supported by Tigo Ghana and the Millicom Foundation. Our newest innovation transforms student classrooms into “living libraries,” allowing young readers to freely and voluntarily have access to high interest, culturally appropriate books right in their own classrooms. This initiative is wholly funded by The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation and the Global Fund for Children.