International Literacy Day has been celebrated every year on 8th September globally, since 1967, to evoke the significance of literacy as a matter of self-esteem and human rights, and to facilitate sustained efforts of promoting literacy agenda towards more literate communities and societies.

And the theme for International Literacy Day 2021 is “Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”.

We are no stranger to the Covid-19 crisis, and its interference in the learning of children, young people, and adults at an unprecedented rate. Surprisingly, there are still 773 million adults and young people lacking basic literacy skills, the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences have augmented the already existing challenges in access to literacy learning opportunities. Moreover, the proportion of students affected by the closing of schools during the initial phase of lockdown accounted for 62.3% of the world’s student population of 1.09 billion. Also, the youth and adult literacy were absent in many initial educational response plans, therefore they had limited access to life-saving information.

Furthermore, this year theme will explore the incessant efforts that have been made to ensure uninterrupted learning, be it through distance learning or in-person learning in comparison to last year’s theme “Literacy teaching and learning in the Covid-19 crisis and beyond”, highlighted the role of educators and shifting pedagogies. 2021 theme will explore literacy strategies for human-centered recovery and resilience building, accentuating the interrelationship between education and digital skills needed by non-literate youth and adults.

The pandemic, however, magnified the critical importance of literacy. The sudden transit to online learning has also brought attention to the persistent digital divide and its significant implications.

To illustrate this, for example, from access to the wifi and laptops required for virtual education, and the favorable environments needed to focus on learning, up to the much visible inharmony between resources and needs, the crisis has exposed the many inadequacies and inequities in our education systems. Those falling in the economically marginalized groups, don’t have access to digital learning resources and thus are disadvantaged as a result of the digital divide, and they are falling behind in studies.

International Literacy Day 2021 will explore the various aspects of the digital divide while making continuous efforts to make technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and significant to erase previously existing lines of socioeconomic inequality.

Every year, UNESCO rewards individuals as well as organizations for their exceptionally good projects that promote literacy learning. This year the projects are requested to highlight the theme `Inclusive distance and digital literacy learning`. Interested candidates can visit UNESCO International Literacy Prizes’ website for further details about the application and nomination process.