Fervent call to fight illiteracy in the Arab region


Opening the event in the presence of the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Sheikha Mozah said that it was impossible to imagine a comprehensive social development without taking into consideration the issue of knowledge values, improvement of human capacities and the legitimate right of access to knowledge information.

Sheikha Mozah, who is also the chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) and Unesco’s special envoy for basic and higher education, termed illiteracy as both a sensitive and complex issue. “Be it in Arab world or outside, everybody has realised the importance and necessity of combating illiteracy. It is a system that enables the individual to understand well his surroundings and provides him or her with the proper and necessary tools to make a positive impact on his environment and surroundings whether immediate or distant,” she said.

Sheikha Mozah, who stressed the need for setting an accurate definition of illiteracy, said only through a proper understanding of the phenomenon can we successfully develop a methodology to address the problem and confront all sorts of illiteracies, like illiteracy of reading and writing, illiteracy of technology, illiteracy of environment awareness, illiteracy of culture, illiteracy of media, health illiteracy and so on.

To address the complex issue of illiteracy, it requires “a great deal of societal innovation and imagination on our part to find a suitable environment.” She underlined the necessity to institutionalise literacy and create a political environment that respects the role of the citizen in the first place and recogonise the status and the role of the community in this connection by building wide partnerships with the civil society organisations, without which it would be impossible to acheive the desired goals, she said.

“To combat the challenges of illiteracy in the Arab world, we have to make use of all possible opportunities. We should not miss the opportunities and realise that to build and promote a knowledge community and not just the information community requires in the first place a political will that lays the foundation for deep reforms which make education a driving force of the community.

“When such political will exists, it will make literacy a strategic element of sustainable human development. Eliminating illiteracy is a system of significance to citizen development, therefore it should not be circumstantial, elitist or sectorial nor should it take into consideration the gender of social differences. Our success in eliminating illiteracy according to this perspective will be the basis towards modernity and democracy and also the way to peace and stability", she added.

Hence it is our highest priority to protect this system in all circumstances and particularly during the time of war and crises, Sheikha Mozah said, adding that it is the difficulty which could be solved once we reschedule our priorities and draw a policy that takes into consideration not only the short term security interests but is also based on a political insight that looks to the future and plan for it as a reserve stock for human survival and stability.

Sheikha Mozah said the case of education in Iraq is a living example of what could result from confused agendas and different priorities.

So how could we explain the existence of will and capacity to surpass the pressures of the security situation when it concerns the protection of natural resources flow, while this capacity becomes null when the aim is to protect the intellect sources of educational institutions and universities then we stand as spectators and attribute this to the difficulty of the situation.

Sheikha Mozah said it is our duty and the duty of Unesco which guards the world educational conscience to strive to find mechanisms to activate this solidarity.

This solidarity should be the best support to the Iraqi education system, which was a model to be followed in fighting illiteracy and which needs from all of us a solid support in order to continue the same role it has played, she said.


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