I went on the internet to educate myself on literacy, reading and writing—because Wednesday, September 8 is international literacy day.
As I scrolled through the dozens of United Nations international days, I chanced upon one that filled me with laughter, then with tears.
“International Toilet Day”—that is what amazed me. So there is an international toilet day and yet our sandy beaches still admit people with running stomachs? And black polyethene bags are stuffed at night and discarded on the street?
So there is an international toilet day and yet people abandon toilets built for them and rather prefer to do their own thing in the bush close to water sources?
And landlords still build commercial compound houses with no toilet facilities? That is how my laughter quickly turned into tears!
But I was educating myself about literacy not toilets. As I read more about the reason for UNESCO establishing the international literacy day way back in 1966, I asked myself, “Are we going to rubbish international literacy day the same way we rubbish international day for toilet? I pray not! Literacy is so critical to national development that we neglect it at our own jeopardy.
But is there a connection between literacy and toilet? Or simply put, would a literate person also do it at the beach and in the bush near water sources?
“Literacy” means being able to read and write with understanding, which borders on human rights and it creates a sense of dignity. It is dignifying to be able to read newspapers, road signs, medicine and other product labels, books and journals, letters and a host of other writings.
An Akan proverb says, “If there is no literate person in the family to read for them, family secrets are leaked to outsiders!”
That is why it is tragic if literate people fail to read. A poor culture of reading can deprive us the great opportunity of reading the Scriptures for God’s wisdom and guidance for life.
In 2016, a new research established that Finland was (maybe it still is) the most literate country in the world.
The UK was the 17th, followed by countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia. What might the position of Ghana be? How literate are we?
The international literacy day focuses on the importance and relevance of literacy for people, their communities and the society. I learnt a long time ago that illiteracy is a kind of disease that must be cured.It is precisely because of the potency of literacy for personal and national development that making education accessible and affordable for all citizens is a brilliant move.
About the benefits of literacy, I have my own story.
I came to Tamale from my village at age 17 and lived near a suburb that was only a five-minute walk to the small public library.
There, I spent quality time reading storybooks. I read so profusely that it was as if my future depended on literacy.
Incidentally, it did! So much reading developed in me the desire for further education, the flair for writing and love for literature, which became the bedrock of my career as a writer, publisher and a writer-trainer.
Privately, I read my way into writing GCE ordinary and advanced level examination until I entered the university.
People ask me, “So which secondary school did you attend?” And my answer is: “The Private Candidates Academy!”
That school is located in the mind, personally driven by self- determination through reading. And God’s favour blesses such efforts.
At that time, I realised how much I needed God’s help in everything I did. When I surrendered my life to Christ, reading volumes of Christian literature helped me grow as a young believer.
I built a 100-seater library in my village, Sakogu, near the north-east regional capital Nalerigu to help promote reading.
When all the volumes of books are in place, I dream about the librarians embarking on what I call “reading tourism” and “reading picnics” to attract readers from the schools and the 43 communities around.
For all the benefits I have derived from books and reading, this is only a small pay back to the glory of God!
We celebrate parents and guardians who facilitate the education of their children and wards. Various governments, through the ministry of education and its subsidiaries, must be lauded for all developments and policies that enhance education. Particularly, it is important to encourage the reading of literature in schools.
Literacy, numeracy, reading and writing enhance people’s chances of employment, innovation and the ability to harness local resources for progress.
The writer is a publisher, author, writer-trainer and CEO of Step Publishers.