By: Prof. Jayadeba Sahoo
“Vidya Bihin Pashuhu”
This old dictum of Bhartrihari Neeti Shatak – 20 in Sanskrit signifies that illiterate person is identical to an animal without horns and tail and burden on the earth (Naik, 1979). Since times immemorial, Indians have respected and idolized true Education. International Literacy Day takes place on September 8 every year to raise awareness and concern for literacy problems that exist within our own local communities as well as globally. It was first conceived at the “World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy” held in Tehran, Iran in 1965. The following year UNESCO took the lead and On 26 October, 1966, proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day, with the primary purpose being “…to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies”, “as a matter of dignity and human rights” “and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.”
The purpose was not only to combat illiteracy but also to promote literacy as a tool that could empower individuals as well as whole communities. One year later, the global community accepted the challenge of ending illiteracy by participating in the first International Literacy Day. International Literacy Day brings ownership of the challenges of illiteracy back home to local communities where literacy begins, one person at a time. Along with all this going on, this day was adopted as the part of the UN’s sustainable development goals program in 2015 and Goal 4 has one of its targets ensuring all young people achieve literacy and numeracy basically those adults who lack these skills and opportunities are also provided so that they can acquire them. The theme for this year 2022 is: “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces; Exploring Opportunities and Possibilities.”
Importance of International Literacy Day
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”, wrote Frederick Douglass in the nineteenth century, an emancipated black American slave, champion of the abolitionist cause and author of several books. This call for emancipation through reading, and more generally by mastering basic skills – literacy and numeracy – has universal scope. Literacy is the first step towards freedom, towards liberation from social and economic constraints. It is the prerequisite for development, both individual and collective. It reduces poverty and inequality, creates wealth, and helps to eradicate problems of nutrition and public health. Since the times of Frederick Douglass, and particularly in recent decades, considerable progress has been made in all regions of the world, and millions of men and women have been lifted from ignorance and dependency through a broad-based movement of literacy and the democratization of access to education. However, the prospect of a world in which every individual has fundamental knowledge remains an ideal.
Today, worldwide, more than 260 million children and adolescents are not enrolled in school; six out of ten children and adolescents – around 617 million – do not acquire the minimum proficiency levels in literacy and numeracy; 773 million young people and adults lack basic literacy skills, still cannot read and write – and among them, two-thirds are women. As per the last census in 2011, in India, a total of 74.04 percent are literate, an increase of 9.2 percent from the last decade. And according to UNESCO, the country will take another 40 years to achieve universal literacy, which is 2060. These seriously debilitating shortcomings lead to a de facto exclusion from society and perpetuate a spiral of social inequalities and gender inequalities.
According to UNESCO “Literacy is the best remedy” which is the key to the right for all to an education. Also, we all know that UNESCO sustainable development goals mobilise efforts to eradicate poverty and inequalities across the world and improving literacy rates are an integral element. With this further the importance of this day will be enhanced and promotes awareness and relevance of literacy and adult learning.
A new challenge :
A new challenge is now being added to this: a world in flux, where the pace of technological innovation is continuously accelerating. In order to find a place in society, get a job, and respond to social, economic and environmental challenges, traditional literacy and numeracy skills are no longer enough; new skills, including in information and communication technology, are becoming increasingly necessary. Preparing young people and adults for jobs, the majority of which have not yet been invented, is a challenge. Accessing lifelong learning, taking advantage of pathways between different forms of training, and benefiting from greater opportunities for mobility has thus become indispensable.
UNESCO has been central to improve literacy worldwide and that is why promotes International Literacy Day in partnership with governments, charities, local communities and experts in the field worldwide. By adopting various themes every year wants to turn attention on literacy in all its forms in a changing world. No doubt without literacy we can’t make changes in the world and also can’t improve our living being. But according to Mahatma Gandhi, mere “Literacy in itself is no education. Literacy is not the end of education or even the beginning. By education, I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit.”
Because Youth signifies dynamism and energy and since this energy is not properly guided or channelized, we find them becoming victims of social evils like corruption, communalism, terrorism, etc. Hence there is the need of such education which nurtures positivity within the individual or to say, Spiritual Education or Knowledge. Therefore, if we want to evolve an ideal society and new world, we need to bring a spiritual revolution.
As Erich Fromm told “Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines,” India’s Education Guru Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan realized that our Education system does not appear to fulfill the true aim of education. He said, “The three things- vital dynamism, intellectual efficiency and spiritual direction together constitute the proper aim of education. Moral and spiritual training is an essential part of education. Enfranchisement of the mind, freedom from prejudice and fanaticism, and courage are essential. What we need today is the education of the whole man- physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual……… If education is to help us to meet the moral challenge of the age and play its part in the life of the community, it should be liberating and life giving. It must give a basic meaning to personality and existence and equip us with the power to overcome spiritual inertia and foster spiritual sensitivity………. Seat of learning should produce men and women who will move together to develop common ideals and purposes, love each other and co-exist to create a co-operative common wealth.”
Radhakrishnan had also strongly recommended the teaching of spiritual and ethical aspects of the religions as it is evident in the report of the University education commission of which he was the Chairman. The report maintained that: “Unless morality is taken in a larger sense it is not enough. If we exclude the Spiritual Training in our institutions, we would have to be untrue to our whole historical development. To be secular is not to be religiously illiterate. It is to be deeply spiritual and not narrowly religious.” To enable students to become enlightened civilized citizen, he used to lay stress on the need of ethical teaching while addressing them. According to him, where scientific knowledge ends, the realm of mystery begins.
For the re-establishment of moral values in the society through such a spiritual revolution, the world creator, God, the Supreme Soul has reincarnated on earth. He, through the means of Prajapita Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya, has been awakening His human children through spiritual education and RajYoga Meditation. Learners can free themselves from the attraction of worldly beauty and material charm through the ancient system of RajYoga. In this World University, young and old, rich and poor are taught to inculcate virtues like love, compassion, tolerance, politeness, patience, honesty, truthfulness, etc. It is only these values which can pave the way for the creation of a better society and a better world. Incorporeal God Shiva has been imparting this spiritual education for the last 86 years, which will pave the way for creation of a Golden Aged World. Now is the time when man can gain spiritual worth and inherit the eternal bliss for the self. It is now or never!
(The author is a Faculty, Brahma Kumaris, RERF & Professor (Ex- Dean & Head), Faculty of Education, R.G.U., Cell: 91- 9436042658, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected])
On International Literacy Day: Spiritual Literacy – Need of the Time
By: Prof. Jayadeba Sahoo