While the COVID crisis increases inequalities, UNESCO recalls that reading is the basis of development

Paris: While 773 million adults and young people around the world still lack basic literacy skills, UNESCO will host an online International Conference on literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond On International Literacy Day, 8 September. The conference will bring together experts and educators to reimagine literacy teaching and learning for youth and adults, in line with UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative. UNESCO’s International Literacy Prizes 2020 will also award five outstanding literacy programmes from Ghana, Mexico, Nepal, United Kingdom and Yemen.


The near-global lockdown caused by COVID-19 has disrupted education, affecting more than 91% of students and 99% of teachers. “Reading is the key to development. Adult literacy programs should not be the adjustment variable of education” declared UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.


This year’s UNESCO’s International Literacy Prizes recognizes excellence in literacy programmes in the spirit of the theme of the Organization’s Literacy Day celebration.


The two UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize awards for mother-tongue literacy education and training, sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea, will be given to:

Ageing Nepal for its national programme: ‘Basic Literacy Class for Older Persons,’ Nepal. The country’s first programme to target older people who have moved from rural settings to urban areas. It empowers the elderly by supporting their ability to live independently through intergenerational adult literacy education in the national language, Nepali. Ageing Nepal is a national leading non-government organization registered with the government of Nepal and affiliated to the Social Welfare Council.

United World Schools for its programme ‘Providing Non-Burmese Speaking Out-of-School Children with Access to Education’, United Kingdom. The programme provides access to primary education for out-of-school children from linguistic minority communities in Myanmar’s Shan State. By employing and training community members as teachers, the programme allows children to study in their mother tongue, while bringing employment and capacity-building opportunities to teachers. United world schools (UWS) is an international charity based in the United Kingdom that focuses on sustainable quality education.

The three awards of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, for work that benefits rural populations and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women, will be given to:


Centro Universitario de Participación Social of the Benmérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla for its literacy programme: ‘Learning by Teaching, Mexico’. Based on the creation of support networks, the programme supports the idea of global citizenship whereby volunteer college students, previously trained by mentors, live together in a rural community to teach young people and adults how to read and write, while also educationally supporting children. It is a unique model of participatory training and critical reflection on the different social problems in the context of life skills training. This approach aims to ensure sustainability and building relationships between different sectors of the society to create positive interdependency.

The General literacy office in Sanaa, Yemen, for its programme ‘Educating and integrating refugees in literacy classes in Yemeni society,’. This exemplary local programme operating despite war and displacement, caters to illiterate refugees regardless of their nationality. It helps them acquire literacy skills so that they can benefit from a range of learning opportunities throughout life, including the acquisition of life skills needed to face the social and economic challenges. The programme employs flexible pedagogies adapted to different age groups and abilities to help them qualify for enrollment in formal education. The General Literacy Office in Sanaa is part of the Literacy and Adult Education Organization of the Yemeni ministry of Education, which operates in 21 provinces and supervises over 215 literacy centres in 11 districts in Yemen.

Just Commit Foundation (JCF) for its programme ‘Inspirational Business Stories,’ Ghana. This programme has an innovative approach to literacy teaching and learning through business story books that inspire and guide children and youth to create sustainable businesses with limited resources. It promotes the use of waste such as paper, plastic, fabric and e-waste to create new, inexpensive and reusable products. The beneficiaries learn eco-entrepreneurship in both their local language and English, including how to develop business models, set up and run successful, sustainable and environmentally-friendly businesses. The programme also develops young peoples’ personal skills such as confidence, team-work, leadership and problem-solving, and combines literacy and sustainability for the broader community. JCF was established in 2017 as a non-profit organization to leverage innovation at the service of youth and children.

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