Literacy as an International Challenge: Jomtien, Dakar and Beyond
Literacy as an International Challenge: Jomtien, Dakar and Beyond, Prepared for: The 47th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Darwin, Melbourne and Canberra, Australia, 3 - 14 September 2001, Conference theme: Reassessing the profession of politics to raise the public perception of Parliaments and Parliamentarians / Workshop topic: Poverty Alleviation / Requested topic for paper: Literacy Gajaraj Dhanarajan (Professor Emeritus) President and Chief Executive Officer, The Commonwealth of Learning, 17 July 2001 // We still live in a world of great inequality. // A good part of humanity is still denied access to an equal share of the planet's wealth, to justice, to a decent living; the disparity between those who have and those who do not in terms of food, health care and social security continues to be appalling. This disparity is not just between rich and poor nations but also within nations and communities. Nowhere in these equations of disparities will one find something greater than that seen in education and educational provisions. // Throughout the ages, education has been the most powerful agent of change. Many of our leading thinkers, political leaders, and development specialists have come to recognise that the empowerment of individuals through the provision of learning - a basic human right and social responsibility - must therefore be protected. It is this desire to empower individuals that led to those who met in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1989 to declare among other things that: every person - child, youth and adult should be able to benefit from education; opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs. // Many would say that the Education for All (EFA) declaration remains little more than rhetoric. In April last year, slightly beyond ten years after the Jomtien World Conference on Education For All, some 180 government representatives, a multitude of donor agencies, and hundreds of international experts met in Dakar, Senegal, to assess the progress made by the EFA initiative. Dakar provided an opportunity not only to take stock and set new targets on the basis of the previous ten years of experience but also to learn from the lessons of the first decade of the EFA. These new targets, like those set by other global agendas, call for achieving Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015. By doing so, it is hoped that a number of things such as halving the incidence of poverty, reducing child deaths by two-thirds and reducing maternal mortality by one-half, can more readily be achieved.