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A campaign for literacy is one of the most important actions a country can take, in the effort to foster human, social and economic development.
This was stated by Education Programme Manager, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Office for the Caribbean, Paolo Fontani.
Addressing the launch of the Literacy Poster and Essay Competition, under the theme: ‘Literacy is the Best Remedy’, at the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF), headquarters in Kingston on September 8, Mr. Fontani said that research has repeatedly demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between people’s level of literacy and their chances to maintain good health.
“Increased education access for girls and women, ensures better health for both the child and the woman. Education still represents the most important factor for child health,” he said, adding that the higher the level of education attained by the mother, the higher are the chances that the child has access to treatment and health services.
Mr. Fontani pointed out that illiteracy affects a person’s ability to seek or act on health related information, noting that illiteracy sets in motion a vicious cycle of vulnerability. He added that beyond the inability to read or count, illiteracy confers low self esteem that might severely limit an individual’s comfort level, when engaging with health practitioners to gain treatment, however cost effective it might be.
“Left untreated, persistent illiteracy and its related effects on the health of a population will develop into chronic social exclusion, disempowerment and underdevelopment,” he said, adding that these ill effects would ultimately have a negative impact on every sector within the society.
He pointed out that the persistence of illiteracy in a society would not allow for inclusion of many; on the other hand, it would impact negatively on society’s health, while compromising social development within the country.
Mr. Fontani stressed that programmes promoting education for all should be implemented, in an effort to have an excellent literacy rate, which would undoubtedly contribute to all the other sectors within the society.
He pointed out that countries that have implemented programmes promoting education for all, such as Cuba and Japan, have excellent literacy rates and this has undoubtedly contributed to their sound national health reports.
“In the Caribbean, standards must be that of full literacy, education for everyone, regardless of status, gender or age. Our standards must be one that allows for everyone’s full participation, a standard of true development,” he said.
He explained that the concept of literacy has evolved considerably over the years, giving rise to new implications for both policies and programmes. The uses of literacy are changing rapidly in contemporary societies, in response to broad social, economic and technological changes. “One thing that has not changed, however, is that literacy is central to all levels of learning, through all delivery modes. It is the bedrock for all learning and thus confers empowerment, entitlement and purpose in the lifelong quest for education. It also allows for meaningful participation in society and development,” he said.
The Literacy Poster and Essay competition is organised by the Education Transformation Team in the Ministry of Education.
The period of September 7 to October 4 is being observed as National Literacy and Lifelong Learning Month, under the theme: ‘Transforming a Nation Through Literacy’. The objectives of the month’s activities are: to promote an awareness of the importance of literacy in national development; to extend literacy practitioners’ knowledge of effective literacy practices; to build synergies and establish partnerships among literacy interest groups; and to support UNESCO’s literacy decade (2003-2012).