Basic literacy needs to continue to be on our list of priorities
Education has been a challenge during Covid-19. Classrooms, after all, are potential hotbeds for the spread of the virus, and it is nearly impossible for educational institutions with a large student population to stringently enforce social distancing. But our country grapples with a far more elementary problem that has also been dealt a blow at this time, and that is the problem of adult literacy.
Just like all other parts of the education sector, non-formal education has had to remain largely suspended, dealing a significant blow to our progress in bringing up the literacy rate. As Unesco has correctly noted, the initial response plan ignored adult literacy and education. As a result, adults and youth with little or no literacy have been disadvantaged at dealing with the adverse effects of the pandemic.
At a time when information is crucial, they have largely been grappling in the dark, relying on rumours. Their lives and livelihoods have been particularly vulnerable, as they do not have the luxury of distant learning. Bangladesh does have widespread adult literacy programs in place, but those activities have remained suspended during the pandemic. Six months into this crisis, it is time for us to figure out new ways to close the literacy gap.
It is good to see the pledge towards a Basic Literacy Project at 250 selected upazilas in all 64 districts, with the specific aim of bringing literacy to people between the age of 15 and 45. We have had to make compromises, and will have to do so for a while longer; nevertheless, basic literacy needs to continue to be on our list of priorities. If not, we will be all the more unprepared to continue our development journey in the aftermath of this crisis.