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International Literacy - A right and a dream

2009-09-06

President's Message

International Literacy - A right and a dream

September 8 is International Literacy Day—a day the United Nations has dedicated to highlighting the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Literacy is a basic human right. It is crucial for overcoming poverty, improving health, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth and achieving gender equality.

Just as food is a basic prerequisite for health, education is a basic prerequisite for literacy. It is also something many parents in developing countries dream about.

I worked in the field with UNICEF for over twenty years. No matter where I was or how dire the situation, when I’d ask parents what they wanted for their children, they’d say, “we want a school because learning is the future.” 

I remember one group of parents in Southern Sudan who had trekked for days to reach us. “We know we don’t have much of a future,” they said, “But please give our kids an education so they will have a future.”

Although we have made great gains in school attendance—in more than 60 developing countries, at least 90 per cent of primary-school age children are in school--over 100 million children of primary school age are not in school. Of these, nearly half are girls.

September 8 is not only International Literacy Day, but this year, it is the first day of school in most of Canada. .

As you take your children to school, or watch others on their way, please remember that what you want for your children is what all parents want.

And it is what all children, no matter where they are, deserve.

Nigel Fisher
President & CEO UNICEF Canada

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.