Marking International Literacy Day, Annan urges investments in education

Marking International Literacy Day, Annan urges investments in education

On the eve of International Literacy Day, marked every 8 September, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged greater investments in education "as a decisive weapon in the fight against poverty and precariousness."

In his message commemorating the Day, the Secretary-General underscores the value of devoting resources to literacy programmes. "The gains are outstanding not only in economic terms - an educated workforce is a more productive workforce - but also in social and cultural terms," he says.

Mr. Annan also welcomes recent progress in promoting literacy, while pointing out that the world still has some 1 billion illiterate adults. "Among the 88 million out-of-school children who lack basic reading ability, two-thirds are girls," he notes. At the same time, he observes that the gap between those who have access to reading materials and those who do not is growing wider.

According to the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), the vast majority of the world's people can read and write. Welcoming this trend in his message on the Day, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura lauds the "spectacular progress" made in recent decades while noting that "literacy continues to be unevenly distributed within and between societies."

"This situation is all the more intolerable because the technology, expertise, experience and resources to build a literate world are available today," Mr. Matsuura says. While acknowledging the difficulties involved in achieving literacy for all, he stresses that efforts must continue to realize this goal. "There is too much at stake to allow ourselves to become dispirited," he says.