A TURNING- POINT
( Excerpt from: "Literacy: A Vital Component of The New Economic Order " by Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, Director -General of UNESCO, Unesco Features)
Just as 1965 was a point of departure for the campaign against illiteracy through- out the world, 1975 can be considered a turning point. We may now be said to possess a veritable charter for literacy work.
An initial point is that the most spectacular successes have been achieved, as stated in the Declaration of Persepolis, when "literacy was linked to meeting man's fundamental requirements, ranging from his immediate vital needs to effective participation in social change". This is what I shall call the principle of functionality.
Secondly, it has become clear that literacy work can only be effective if the beneficiaries themselves participate in it, each adult becoming the agent of his or her' own literacy training and- even more important being aware of the need for this personal involvement. This principle of participation, which applies equally well to any other educational program or development work, is in my opinion fundamental. In this context, literacy is a work of liberation. Further, through the participation of the people concerned literacy programs can help to strengthen feelings of cultural identity and to consolidate the national languages.
A third essential principle is that of the integration of literacy programs into the process of lifelong education and into a whole context of economic and social reforms. One of the most striking examples in this respect is rural development, which is affected by the world food crisis, natural disasters and problems of unemployment and under-employment and by the structure of society.
Integration into the process of lifelong education presupposes that literacy work is followed up. Literacy and numeracy are useless accomplishments unless the new literate is provided with suitable reading material in his own language which takes account of his level of education and of his interests.
It is also clear that no universal model can be devised for literacy programs, but that these must be adapted to circumstances, individuals, socio-economic and cultural contexts. Diversification of approaches is therefore a prerequisite of success. In this connection, certain countries have introduced interesting innovations drawing both on their own cultural traditions and on the most advanced technology. I am thinking particularly (though this is one example among many) of Jamaica, which is using radio, television and cassettes for its literacy program, micro-teaching to train the instructors, and popular music and drama to enlist and stimulate public interest.
Finally, the wisest statements of principle, and the most persevering efforts by international organizations are as nothing if the Political will of the nation concerned is lacking. Governments have a key role to play in establishing objectives, choosing strategies and mobilizing the nation's energies and resources to make literacy a vital instrument for achieving the necessary social change. Whenever a nation has tackled the problem of illiteracy to pave the way for other changes the results have been positive.