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09.09.2005 General News

47% of Ghanaians are still not literate

47% of Ghanaians are still not literate

- Osafo-Maafo says its national tragedy The Minister of Education and Sports, Hon Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has observed that even though the country's literacy rate has improved over the last decade, some 7 million people, representing 47 % of the population cannot read or write. This staggering trend, he noted, keeps increasing the burden of disseminating governmental and developmental issues to the people, who are mainly at the grassroots.

Describing illiteracy as a barrier to development, whose bedfellows are ignorance and disease, the minister reiterated government's commitment to providing universal primary education to all, so as to help catalyze developmental efforts.

These and other concerns were contained in a speech read on his behalf by Miss Elisabeth Ohene, Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, during this year's celebration of the International Literacy Day, held in Ho on Thursday.

In his key-note address, which was on the theme: “Literacy and Sustainable Development,” Hon. Osafo-Maafo said literacy rate had since 1984, increased from 32% to 53% currently, but added that some 7 million of the people still remained outside the Functional Literacy Programme net. “It is a personal tragedy and a national catastrophe,” he lamented.

The Oda MP said he found this year's theme very relevant because it invariably brought to the fore, the will and commitment of government towards holistic educational policies and systems that fall in line with the goals of the United Nations Literacy Decade.

“Any nation that neglects its human resource development and its adults will be neglecting a larger number of its populace. Similarly, a country with majority of its citizens literate can speedily make an economic turnaround and enhance the institutionalization of democratic practices,” he stressed.

According to him, educating the adult is crucial to achieving national goals because literate parents are far more likely to invest in educating their children and take active part in improving the quality of education in their localities.

He called for linkages between the formal and non-formal departments of the educational sector and expressed delight that quite a number of the younger graduates of the adult literacy programme have joined the formal system.

The minister, however, was worried that if nothing pragmatic was done, gains so far made could not be sustained and non-formal graduates could relapse into illiteracy due to the absence of a continuous learning system.

He debunked the notion that the national Functional Literacy Programme is for adults and gave out statistics to show that about 76% of the learners fell within the 15-44 age bracket, and cautioned that no group of people should be discriminated against in the process.

“Let us not for once believe that we can achieve 'Education for All' and other 'Millennium Development Goals' by overlooking the provision of education, functional literacy as well as employment promotion avenues for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups like street children and labourers,” he stressed.

Finally, Osafo-Maafo called for the establishment of Open Colleges and Apprenticeship Skills Training Programmes to link learning to the developmental needs of the youth.

Earlier in a welcome address, the volta regional minister, Hon. Samuel Kofi Dzamesi, commended government for making resources available to the Non-Formal Education Division (NFED) to enhance its activities and appealed to the division to work with devotion, commitment and dedication to justify the huge resources at its disposal by making its impact well felt.

Dzamesi pledged his personal support, and that of the regional coordinating council, to the coordinator of the unit, in the region in a concerted effort to eradicate illiteracy from the region.

The International Literacy Day, which is celebrated globally on the 8th of September each year, was instituted by UNESCO to highlight the benefits of literacy and also galvanize support to combat the canker of illiteracy.

Present at the celebration were Hon. Joseph Kweku Nayan, deputy Volta regional minister, Mrs Adu Gyamfi, national coordinator of Action Aid, and Mr. Samuel Salifu, national coordinator of the NFED.