International Literacy Day 2019: Embracing Multilingualism

Students in Mozambique showcasing their reading ability at a Food for Knowledge event.

Each year we celebrate International Literacy Day on September 8, which is an opportunity for governments and organizations worldwide to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world's remaining literacy challenges. The day aligns with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to find solutions for global issues, such as social inequality and climate change.

SDG 4 focuses on improving the quality of education around the world by making it more inclusive and accessible for everyone. One of the targets under Goal 4, SDG 4.6, specifically addresses literacy issues: "By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy."

Despite basic literacy skills improving in recent years, there is still major room for improvement. According to the United Nations, 750 million adults worldwide remain illiterate. In addition, 617 million children and adolescents lack minimum proficiency in math and reading.

Multilingualism and Planet Aid

The theme for this year's International Literacy Day is "Literacy and Multilingualism." The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization acknowledges that addressing literacy challenges, specifically in developing countries, is to embrace linguistic diversity and literacy development in education.

Planet Aid's Food for Knowledge Project (FFK) in Mozambique is addressing literacy challenges among primary school children. In partnership with ADPP Mozambique and Cambridge Education, Planet Aid implemented an early grade-reading component within the FFK program.

Young children in Mozambique are often taught to read and write in Portuguese, the official language of the nation, despite only speaking one of several native languages when entering school. This creates huge difficulties in learning early reading skills. So, in the FFK early-grade reading program, children are learning to read in their mother tongue, which helps to accelerate learning and makes it easier for children to later learn Portuguese.

Throughout the four years of the early grade-reading component, literacy specialists have developed classroom and other early grade reading materials in two national languages, Changana and Rhonga. This has also led to teacher and reading-coach training programs, which has resulted in over 300 teachers being trained in the use of bilingual methods and materials.

The Future of FFK

Over 10,000 children have benefited from the bilingual learning materials within the FFK program, but the success will not stop there. According to Dr. Paula Green, a literacy component advisor of the program, the official goal of the program is for 45 percent of grade two learners to read and understand a grade-level text by 2020. You can read Dr. Green's insights on the literacy component in our latest blog.

If you want to be a part of the success of the FFK program, then donate your clothing to one of our 19,000 bins in the United States. Your clothing helps fund projects, like FFK, which benefit people all over the world.