TODAY -

Towards An Enlightened Dawn
- International Literacy Day, 2013 -

Abdus Salam, Sr. MCS *

A file picture of UNESCO International Literacy Day 2011 Poster
A file picture of UNESCO International Literacy Day 2011 Poster :: Pix :: Wikipedia



Literacy is much more than an educational priority - it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the twenty-first century.

- Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General


8th September is celebrated as International Literacy Day throughout the world to promote worldwide literacy.

It was on 8th September 1965 that the World Congress of Education Minister met in Tehran, the capital of Iran organized by the UNESCO to discuss the problems of illiteracy for the first time at the international level. The Conference took a number of important decisions to deal with this problem on global scale. Since then, this date has become historic and is being observed as the International Literacy Day to arouse the interests, the conscience of the people to the handicap that the illiteracy imposes on them and instilling them a determination to learn.

International Literacy Day was first observed on September 8, 1966. On International Literacy Day, individuals, organizations, and countries throughout the world renew their efforts to promote literacy and demonstrate their commitment to providing education for all and making the world 100% literate.

Let us have an insight into some alarming and shocking facts relating to literacy and education across the globe in general and India and Manipur in particular. The statistics are as follows:

  • In 2011, global literacy rate is 84.1% (88.6% male and 79.9% female)
  • Almost 774 million of the world's adults (aged 15 and over) do not know how to read or write (about two-thirds of this numbe, 493 million(63%) are women
  • One in every 5 adult is illiterate
  • Almost 123 million youth of which 76 million are female do not know how to read or write.
  • 75 million children do not attend school
  • More than half of adult illiterate population (53%) live in South and West Asia, 24% in sub-Saharan Africa, 12% in East Asia and Pacific, 6.2% in Arab States, 4.6% in Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Less than 2% of world's illiterate population live in either Europe, North America or Central Asia.(Source :UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2013).
Talking about India, we have 74.04% literacy rate as a whole. Male literacy rate is 82.14% and 65.46 % is the female literacy rate. The gender gap is 16.68%. Amongst the states Kerala has the highest literacy rate of 93.91% followed by our neighbour Mizoram with 91.58%. Amongst UTs. Laxadives lead the list with 92.28% followed by Daman & Dieu with 87.07%. Bihar has the lowest literacy rate of 63.82%(Source: Census 2011)

Now coming to Manipur, our literacy rate 79.85%, male 86.49% and female73.17%. Gender gap is 13.32%.

In a bid to make the nation a literate country, the Government has started several programmes relating to literacy and education before and after indepenedence.One of the most successful programmes is its flagship programme "Saakshar Bharat" meaning Literate India. Saakshar Bharat was launched on the occasion of the International Literacy Day on 8th September, 2009 in New Delhi by our Hon'ble Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. This mission is the world's largest adult education programme that envisages making 70 million adults literate by 2012. The pogramme has been extended upto March 31st 2017.

The Saakshar Bharat strives to create a literate environment that bolsters and sustains a literate society thereby providing ample opportunities for the continuous improvement in the level of adult literacy, specially belonging to focus groups and in focused areas. The programme aims to strengthen adult education among women and other disadvantaged segments of the society by extending educational options to those who have missed the opportunity to pursue formal education due to some or other reasons, and now feel a need to learn for education of any type such as basic literacy skills, basic education, vocational education, physical and emotional development, practical arts, applied sciences, sports and recreation, among others. The target of the mission is :

  • To achieve 80% literacy, 70 million non-literates will be made literate with special focus on adolescents.
  • To reduce gender disparity, 60 million out of the target of 70 million, will be women.
  • To reduce social disparities, within the overall target of 70 million adults, 14 million SC (10 million women and 4 million men), 8 million ST (6 million women and 2 million men) and 12 million Muslim (10 million women and 2 million men) adults will be covered.
  • To minimise regional disparities, the programme will strive to achieve 100% literacy in low female literacy districts in rural India.


The outcome of the above targets could be the following:

  • Reduce the level of adult female illiteracy in India by half.
  • A positive impact on the living conditions of neo-literates.
  • Further strengthening of democratic institutions at the grassroot level.
  • Significant impact on human development indices.


Nevertheless, despite significant achievement of the mission during 9th & 10th plan period, 2011 census had revealed 300 million illiterate adults (15+) in the country and gap between male and female literacy still continues at around 17% and inter-state disparities range between 330% & 80% it continues to be an area of national concern.

In Manipur Saakshar Bharat Programme has covered 4 districts-Thoubal, Chandel, Senapati and Tamenglong where the female literacy rate is below 50% as per Census-2001. So far the State Literacy Mission authority has made 55,841 illiterate women literate against the target of 77,263 till March 2013.

As we now know the statistics and facts about literacy, we now know how far we are to attain the 100% literacy rate. Although Government of India is leaving no stone unturned to educate the masses and classes, yet it needs support from every section of the society, specially from the educated masses. The Government, in its endeavour to make the nation a literate one, is seeking help and coordination from its educated citizens to help it triumphs in its literacy mission. Lastly, it is an appeal to our beloved brothers and sisters particularly the students and teaching community of the State to voluntarily support in this mission of eradicating illiteracy in the State by contributing in their skills and knowledge and sparing a few hours of their time to educate their next door neighbours who have missed the bus of educating themselves in their childhood.



Abdus Salam, Sr. MCS
Member Secretary, State Literacy Mission Authority
Department of Adult Education, Government of Manipur



* Abdus Salam, Sr. MCS wrote this article for e-pao.net and sent by Dr Md Raheijuddin Sheikh(Shamu) Associate Professor, Department of Physics D M College of Science, Imphal, Manipur, India. The sender may be contacted at mrsheikhshamu[AT]gmail[DOT]com
This article was posted on September 07, 2013.


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