UNESCO Director-General awards 2015 International Literacy Prizes

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© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has awarded the 2015 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes to five original and transformative literacy programmes from Chile, Madagascar, Mozambique, Slovakia and Sri Lanka.

The awards, presented on 8 September at UNESCO Headquarters, were chosen on the basis of this year’s International Literacy Day theme, Literacy and Sustainable Societies

Speaking at the prize-winning ceremony, the Director-General said: “Each prize shows how teaching and learning can be more effective when literacy is linked with other dimensions of sustainable development – with social and political participation, with action against inequality and poverty, with work to promote gender equality, with income generation and decent employment, with environmental protection.”  

“The truth is there is nothing inevitable about illiteracy. This is a challenge we can overcome through collaboration, through creativity, through commitment and resources”. 

The Director-General described the prize ceremony as the high point of the two-day event which aims each year to turn the spotlight on global progress in literacy. Worldwide 757 million adults still lack basic literacy skills, two thirds of them women (UNESCO Institute of Statistics). 

Of the laureates she said: “Their work inspires us, and I know that it inspires all those who are committed to spreading literacy throughout the world”. 

This year, the King Sejong Literacy Prize, which is sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea and gives special consideration to the development and use of mother-tongue literacy education and training, was awarded to Associação Progresso, of Mozambique, for its ‘Literacy in Local Language, a Springboard for Gender Equality’ programme and to the National Institute of Education of Sri Lanka for its ‘Open School Programme’. 

The second prize, the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, is supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and pays special attention to literacy for people in rural areas and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women. This year’s winners were the Juan Luis Vives School of Valparaiso, in Chile, for its ‘Literacy for People Deprived of Liberty’ programme, the Platform of Associations in charge of ASAMA and Post-ASAMA, for its ‘Action for Inclusive Education in Madagascar’ programme, and the Svatobor Association, of Slovakia, for its ‘Romano Barardo’ programme. 

Mr Raafat A. Radwan, General Secretary of the Arab Information and Communication Technology Federation and Member of the International Jury of the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes, drew attention to the distinct trends seen in the programmes recognised this year: two of them worked towards bridging the divide between marginalised communities and society at large (prisoners in Chile and Roma communities in Slovakia), two of them reinforced cooperation amongst governments and civil society organisations (the programmes in Sri Lanka and Madagascar), while another was unique in the emphasis it placed on mother-tongue literacy education. 

Present at the awards ceremony, which took place in the framework of the UNESCO Global Meeting on “Literacy and Sustainable Societies” were H.E. Ms Zhang Xiuqin, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Permanent Delegation of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Mr Lee Byong Hyun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Delegate of the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Korea to UNESCO, as well as representatives of each of the award-winning programmes.