The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of lockdowns have magnified Nepal’s existing literacy challenges. In many countries, adult literacy programmes were absent in the initial education response plans, and the majority that did exist were suspended with just a few courses continuing virtually through television and radio, or in open air spaces.
Amid this pandemic, this year UNESCO celebrated International Literacy Day in Nepal differently, with a series of activities across the country on 8 and 9 September. These were jointly organized with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Centre for Education Human Resource Development (CEHRD) and Community Learning Centres (CLCs).
On the occasion, Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli urged all to work together to make the Literate Nepal Campaign a success. He stated that the country is moving towards development from poverty to prosperity, from partially literate to fully literate, and that there is a determination to fulfill the national aspiration of “Prosperous Nepal-Happy Nepalese”. He said, “Although we are facing a humanitarian crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to increase the pace of work in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
In a webinar organized on 9 September, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology Girirajmani Pokharel appealed to all students, teachers, parents, and educators to come forward with a positive role and make a historic contribution in order to continue the learning of all age groups and people in this current pandemic situation. Acknowledging UNESCO’s efforts in the field of literacy, he urged all development partners to work together with the government to expedite the efforts in this field.
“The present COVID crisis is a historic disruption of education with tremendous cost for all,” said UNESCO Representative to Nepal Christian Manhart. “Worldwide, much of the progress made in education during the last years and even decades has been lost. But this must be taken as an opportunity to analyze the role of educators, create more effective education policies and reimagine literacy, teaching and learning during and after this crisis, with the aim of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4, because learning never stops,” he said.
UNESCO launched a short animated video with the message that learning never stops, not even during a pandemic when schools remain closed, but that learning can take place anywhere.
Also, more than 50 officials from CLCs across the country participated in a training organized for facilitators in coordination with the Shikharapur CLC, that explored how CLC facilitators should play their role in this crisis. Likewise, in a webinar, participants from CLCs of different provinces shared their best practices during the pandemic.
At these events, Bishnu Adhikari, Deputy Director General of the CEHRD, emphasized the need to create awareness among local representatives, leaders and decision makers about the work carried out by CLCs. “We should create opportunities to make CLCs resourceful,” he said.
Balaram Timalsina, Chief of Education Unit in UNESCO Kathmandu Office, appreciated the commendable job that the CLCs are doing to strengthen literacy and lifelong learning and bring about social transformation.
Besides these activities, UNESCO also supported the Attariya CLC in Kailali district in conducting an essay writing competition among secondary school students on coping with the COVID-19 crisis, and Shreekot CLC in Baitadi to organize a poetry competition on the impact of COVID-19 on education. Three winners from each competition will receive a cash prize.
CEHRD, in collaboration with UNESCO and the CLCs, organized other activities that include a nationwide open essay competition on “Access to Literacy and Life Long Learning for Marginalised Groups”, publication of a souvenir on educational issues, tree plantation within the CEHRD premises, development of resource materials and slogans related to literacy in multiple languages, award distribution to CLCs based on their performance, and an interaction programme with the media, among others.