The observance of International Literacy Day across the globe on September 8 underscores the importance of literacy and education in laying the foundation-stone upon which the edifice of nations’ future is erected. The day highlights the contributions and services of individuals and organizations in the field of literacy and education and draws our attention to the need of keeping the issue high on the national, regional and global agendas. It also underlines the need for concerted efforts to make world a hub of education and literacy by plugging the gaps.
The incidence of illiteracy among 793 million adults represents a crying need to join our forces and makes enhancement of literacy as a key global agenda. It is unfortunate that women and children happen to be worst victims to illiteracy. This has very negative implications for societal harmony and balance.
Education is a fundamental human right. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a consensus-based document, of the United Nations adopted at the General Assembly in 1948 acknowledges this right in the following words:
“Every one has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory…”
General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) on November 20, 1989, which says:
“States Parties recognize the right of child to education and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular.”
Likewise, the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 also regards education as a fundamental right of every citizen. The state shall:
“Remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.”
The insertion of Article 25-A into the Constitution under the 18th Constitutional Amendment obligates the state by rendering education as constitutional right of each individual:
“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
Despite these legal and constitutional frameworks, the state of literacy continues to be low. In last national census conducted in 1998, 50 million people are illiterate and the number has now increased to 55 million in 2011. Low enrollment rate and escalating population has led to increasing dropouts from schools with girls happening to be the worst sufferers.
It needs to be known that education is building block for national development and establishment of peace in the world on durable hinges on the promotion of literacy and education. Literacy is at the heart of sustainable economic development, women empowerment, and reducing poverty and increasing employment opportunities. If the world community wants to seek an end to the scourges of terrorism and extremism, education and promotion of literacy is the panacea.
Islam enjoins upon its followers to acquire knowledge. The Islamic history is replete with examples whereby the Holy Prophet (SAW) and Companions highlighted the importance of knowledge through their sayings and actions. There is no denying the fact that our well-being and that of humanity at large is linked to promotion of literacy and education.
Recognizing the need of spreading education and literacy to bring about positive change in the society, Minhaj-ul-Quran International has launched its educational network across Pakistan and the world. It has set up 630 schools, colleges and one chartered university where quality but inexpensive education is being imparted to the less privileged sections of society. Besides this, MQI set up thousands of voluntary and make-shift educational centres from which millions of people benefited. It has also established many hundreds Islamic and cultural centres in the world to promote peace, interfaith dialogue, integration and harmony.
On this occasion of International Literacy Day let us vow to make enhancement of literacy as our topmost agenda, for interwoven with this phenomenon is the future of our succeeding generations and that of the world peace as well.