Publication Date: 08/09/2015


UNESCO International Literacy Day 2015: Theme – Literacy and Sustainable Societies


Annually on the 8 September since 1966.

This annual celebration started following a recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy which met in Tehran in September 1965. The Conference recommended that 8 September, the date of the inauguration of the Conference, be proclaimed International Literacy Day and be observed world-wide. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed that UNESCO award an international literacy prize for meritorious work in the struggle against illiteracy, and created the Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Prize (1967-1978) which was, from 1967 to 1969, the only literacy award presented –

In South Africa the day is celebrated as part of National Book Week which takes place annually from 7-13 September.




Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s income, and one’s relationship with the world –

Literacy usage is constantly changing through the use of technology from internet to social messaging which allows for a greater amount of communication through social and political participation. A communities literacy levels allows it to interact dynamically on various issues of the day. Illiteracy is an obstacle to dynamic written interaction which can lead to numerous issues within a society.

For over 65 years UNESCO has worked, through its formal and non-formal literacy programmes, to ensure that literacy remains a priority on national and international agendas.


The Banking Association South Africa, through its StarSaver Programme along with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, is participating in this year’s proceeding through their attendance at a function hosted by the Mpumalanga MEC for Education, Mrs Reginah Mhaule’s, annual book club launch at Kamhlushwa Primary School, Nkomazi Local Municipality.

The Banking Association will also, as part of the celebrations, be donating books and magazines collected from various stakeholders.

In 2000, the international community pledged to reduce by half the rate of illiteracy among adults, especially women, by 2015. New data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate that while literacy rates have improved the goal will not be met. According to the new estimates, there are 757 million adults, including 115 million youth, who still cannot read or write a simple sentence. Roughly two-thirds of them are female.

The data underscore the need for a greater commitment to the new literacy target of the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes the ambitious pledge to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030.

Literacy among youth (aged 15 to 24 years) has also risen steadily to 91% globally, thanks to better access to schooling for this generation. But in sub-Saharan African and South and West Asia, youth literacy rates are still just 70% and 84% respectively.

Women account for two-thirds of all illiterate adults (63%), and the gap is nearly as wide among youth. Young women make up 59% of the 115 million illiterate youth. South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are far from gender parity:  women aged 15 years and older are 24% less likely to be literate than men in the same age group. Meanwhile, youth in East Asia and the Pacific have reached gender parity, joining adults and youth in Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Central and Eastern Europe.

National projections to 2015 show that most countries are likely to miss the EFA target of a 50% improvement in the adult literacy rate. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be furthest from the target at 64%, or 15% below the target of 79%.
For more information on South Africa’s literacy go to