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Fighting poverty through culture

The European Commission and UNESCO boost literacy in developing countries


The European Commission and UNESCO will call for joint action to reduce the number of young people and adults lacking basic reading and writing skills, both in Europe and world-wide, at a meeting in the European Parliament tomorrow (22 January).

Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, chair of the EU High Level Group on Literacy and special envoy for UNESCO on Literacy for Development, will present the main findings of the report , which includes recommendations addressed at all age groups. Mmantsetsa Marope, Director for Basic Learning and Skills Development at UNESCO, will present UNESCO’s strategy to improve literacy-rates through formal and non-formal programmes.

In addition to efforts to improve levels of literacy in the EU through its ´Europe Loves Reading´ campaign, the European Commission is also at the forefront of action to tackle the problem in the world´s developing countries.

Since 2007, the Commission has invested €4 billion on education and literacy in 48 partner countries, enabling more than 9 million pupils to enrol in school and more than 720 000 primary teachers to receive training.

775 million adults, two-thirds of whom are women, still lack basic reading and writing skills. Literacy empowers people. Women who take part in literacy programmes have better knowledge of health and family planning. Literate parents are more likely to send their children to school and to help them with their studies. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five. Literacy develops societies on political level and is crucial for economic development and fighting poverty. If all children in low-income countries could read, it is estimated that poverty could drop by 12%. Most countries will miss the Education for All Goal 4 on adult literacy, some by a large margin. Of the 40 countries that had an adult literacy rate below 90% in 1998–2001, only three countries (Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia) are expected to meet the goal of reducing their illiteracy rate by 50%.

Thanks to the joint effort and action done within the Global Education Partnership, which includes other donors, UN agencies, NGOs, private sector and partner countries, 19 million children have been put into school, 300,000 additional teachers were hired and 30,000 classrooms were built over the last 10 years.

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