Today marks the 51st commemoration of the International Literacy Day. The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) and first celebrated on the 8th September, 1966. The annual celebration which is coordinated by United Nations Scientific, Education and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), countries and partners, aims to advance the literacy agenda at global, regional and national levels.

International Literacy Day is also to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Literacy in a digital world.”

Marshal McLuhan a communication expert once said “Time has ceased, space has varnished the world has become a global village” Today the digital world has taken over the entire facet of human engagements and mediating contacts and convenience. The digital technologies, including the internet, mobile phones, and all the other tools to manage information digitally, are fundamentally changing the way people live and work, learn and socialize. These digital tools are providing better access to information and knowledge that used to be out of reach or costly. The current transformation is at a record pace with rapid advancement and expansion of technologies.

The digital infrastructure is putting pressure on existing orthodox structures. It is pushing and challenging the frontiers of human life with incalculable benefits for those who can access them. The harvest of the dividends of the digital dispensation is greatest among those literate in Information and Communication Technology (I C T) and who are already privileged to the resource. This is evidenced by developments from other countries, such as India, where Information and Communication Technology (I C T) has contributed immensely to the national Gross Domestic Product. Ghana can seize the benefits of ICT and use it to accelerate economic development as we work towards achieving the Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

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Additionally, Ghana should rectify the strategies contained in the Geneva Action Plan agreed and signed on in 2003. Among its key requirements, the Action Plan expects countries to connect villages and create community access points as well as fix Universities, Colleges, Secondary schools and Primary Schools with ICTs. Education remains the bedrock of every nation’s development. Indeed, no nation can achieve its national agenda without a literate population. Millions of opportunities are loaded and locked out from the reach of the illiterate. There is therefore the need to invest in literacies and life-long learning to enhance the well-being of citizens, thereby alleviating poverty, as well as rolling back diseases and infant mortality challenges.

The quest of the government to implement the free Senior High School policy should be given the necessary support to ensure many a youth gain literacy at the critical period of their development. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) should equally receive the attention offered mainstream education. This will further enhance skills literacy for Ghana’s development, to help graduates from these institutions to create jobs for themselves. This will hopefully reduce the unemployment albatross drastically. The empowering strength of literacy and life-long learning enable individuals to take control of their lives and determine their own destinies. Therefore, there is the need to dial up effective and actionable rhetoric on skills based literacies to empower the Adult illiterate, especially the youth. The illiterates are faced with the double agony of not benefiting from both what literacy and life-long learning has to offer and that of Information and Communication Technology. These individuals cannot be left to their fate.

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They form a large constituency in the informal sector. Hence, these illiterates risk becoming thick in the margin of Ghana towards its attainment of the various Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 4, which entreat nations to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all” by 2030.Moreso, there is also another segment of the population who left school before the introduction of Information and Communication Technology literacy.

They also need to be offered the medium to acquire digital knowledge to enhance their personal lives and contribute meaningfully to national development. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics report for June, 2016, majority of countries missed the Education for All (EFA) goal of reducing adult illiteracy by 50 percent between 2000 and 2015. The report added that, global levels of adult and youth literacy rates are estimated to have grown by only four percent each over this period. This is a wakeup call for literacy implementers to invest more resources to support the efforts of government to take literacy and life-long learning to every hamlet in Ghana. The 2016 UNESCO Institute for Statistics report indicates that adults aged 65 years and older is 34 point 89 percent, which advertise the interest of adult literacy in Ghana.

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Policy makers are called upon to give life and spirit to Article 38 (3) which say “the State shall, subject to the availability of resources provide (b) “A free adult literacy programme, and a free vocational training, rehabilitation and resettlement of disabled persons; and (c) life-long education” this will give meaning to the saying that, “Education starts from the cradle to the grave” Again, Sustainable Development Goal six calls on member countries to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Ghana is currently faced with sanitation challenge, which resulted in the highest cholera infection and case fatality rate in the country’s history in 2014. Literacy has the niche to help improve upon the current insanitary condition in the country. This will lead to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal three, which calls on member countries to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” As Ghana joins the rest of the world to commemorate this day, authorities and policy makers are to transform rhetoric into action for the greater development of our country.

Patrick Twumasi

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