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International Literacy Day

Thursday, September 08, 2016 8:52 AM | Felicia McKenzie (Administrator)

Happy International Literacy Day!

Today marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. Launched by UNESCO in 1966, International Literacy Day aims to promote literacy worldwide in an effort to empower all people. UNESCO has named the theme for 2016’s Literacy Day to be “Reading the Past, Writing the Future.” This celebration looks back on the past five decades of literacy engagement and progress, addresses current issues, and seeks to find innovative solutions to continue improving literacy rates around the world [1].

So why literacy? Why not “International Democracy Day” or “International Share the Wealth Day”? Data shows that increased literacy rates are related to increased national growth and wealth, while higher rates of illiteracy are found in countries in severe poverty [2]. Although literacy rates continue to rise, some 775 million people, or one in five adults, are still not literate [3]. African countries are continuing to improve both literacy rates and national growth, but are still behind other countries globally.

In 2012, Tanzania reported a literacy rate of approximately 85 percent, and the estimate for 2015 has increased to 87 percent [4]. While this is approaching the global average and is above the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 1.3 million youth in Tanzania who are illiterate [5]. The United Nations has created a set of Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, including “ensur[ing] that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” and ensuring that all children are able to complete a free and equitable primary education [6].

Looking for more information on literacy? Check out UNESCO’s Literacy site and their page on International Literacy Day.



[1] UNESCO, “Literacy Day.” Retrieved from

[2] Ibid.

[3] UNESCO, “Literacy and Education Data for the School Year Ending in 2010.”

[4] UIS Data Centre, “Education: Literacy Rate.” Retrieved from

[5] Ibid.

[6] United Nations, “Education - United Nations Sustainable Development.”

Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.

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