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International Literacy

Voice 1
Hello. I’m Christy Van Arragon.
Voice 2
And I’m Marina Santee. Welcome to Spotlight. This programme uses a special English
method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the
world they live.
Voice 3
‘In my village, I cut the grass. I collect the firewood. I do the cooking. It is my job
because I am a girl. My brothers go to school.’
Voice 2
875,000,000 adults cannot read or write. They are illiterate. Two thirds of these people
are women.
Voice 1
Groups like UNESCO are working to change this. The United Nations General Secretary,
Kofi Annan, spoke about this issue. He showed how a girl lacking education affects the
whole community – and country. He said that people groups cannot change much until
girls receive a quality education. Education is necessary for solving many international
Voice 2
For example, many people say that education is our best weapon in fighting the AIDS
disease. Education enables women to gain information. This information can tell them
how to avoid catching the HIV virus that leads to AIDS. Education gives them the
power to avoid possible dangers.
Voice 1
There are strong links between educated mothers and their children’s survival and
development. An educated mother is more likely to take her child for health visits. She
is more likely to give her children a balanced healthy diet. Educated women are often
more able to protect and care for their families. They are able to gain the information
they need to do this. Education helps women to become better informed. Not knowing
how to read and write is a barrier in receiving life saving information and skills.

Voice 2
But many families simply do not have the money to send their children to school. And
if they have the money to send only one child, they will send the boy. They believe that
this is a better long–term investment.
Voice 1
Safety is also sometimes an issue. Many families live long distances from schools.
Parents are more likely to permit their boys to make these long trips.
Voice 2
Another barrier for girls is early marriage and pregnancy. Many countries have laws
that do not permit pregnant girls to attend school. They also have laws that prevent
the girls returning to school after their children are born.
Voice 1
So many girls already have their future planned for them. It includes marriage, children
and working in the home. It is the same as their mothers and their grandmothers.
However, some girls are fighting this old system.
Voice 2
Lalita Kumari grew up in the Sitamarhi District ? India’s poorest state of Bihar. Here, it
is difficult for the boys to gain an education. So women have an even smaller chance.
Only about twenty–six percent [26%] of the women are able to read and write. The
rest are illiterate. A girl who wants an education in Sitamarhi must fight for it. Lalita
Kumari believes it is well worth this fight.
Voice 1
Lalita attended school in secret. When Lalita’s brother discovered her secret, he was
Voice 3
‘I still remember the day my brother caught me going to school. He beat me. He was
ashamed. I had dared to study. Yet the men in our family had never attended school.’
Voice 1
Lalita then heard about a special school for girls – The Mahila Shikshan Kendra. It was
part of the Bihar Education Project. This project aims to provide an education for girls.
Lalita went against her parents’ wishes. She attended the school. She lived and studied
there for eight months with 24 other girls. The girls learned to read and write.
Teachers trained them in life skills. They also taught them health care and public
speaking skills. The girls also learned karate – a skilled fighting sport.
Voice 2
Lalita returned home after studying. Her new skills enabled her to set up a clothes–
making shop. She decided that she wanted to gain more of an education. The Mahila
Shikshan Kendra School provided the money for her. Lalita learnt teaching skills. Today
Lalita teaches karate in four Mahila Shikshan Kendra schools. She sends money home
to her family every month. Her mother and father are extremely pleased with her
success. With great emotion, her mother said,
Voice 1
‘Look at the respect that people are giving to my daughter.’
Voice 2
Aid group UNICEF have used Lalita’s picture on their ‘World’s Children Report 2004.’
The group recognised her as great example of success.
Voice 1
UNICEF says that education is a right for all children, boys and girls. The group is
working to give girls across the world this right. UNICEF has set their goals as the year
2015. By this time, the groups want all children to be able to attend school. UNICEF
also want an education to be a law requirement everywhere – for boys and girls.
Voice 2
UNICEF has provided programmes to help governments form policies. These policies
will help reduce the number of girls not in schools. UNICEF is working with other
organisations to reach its goals. It is working with governments, children’s
organisations, communities, schools, children and families. Plans and goals are in
place. These seek to support and develop the educational system in different
countries. The future of many children depends on this work.
Voice 1
Eleven–year–old Bhahkita lives in Sudan’s North Kordofan State. UNICEF supports the
school she attends. Bhahktita has dreams for the future. She would like to be an
engineer. But if things stay as they are, this will remain just a dream. Her school only
goes up to grade four. This means children must leave at the age of nine or ten. The
community hopes that the State Ministry of Education will support expanding the
school. But this may not happen before Bhahkita finishes school. Her hopes are with
UNICEF. She hopes that UNICEF will support expanding the school. They will first have
to raise the money to do this.

Voice 2
Bhahkita is only young. But she is old enough to know that an education is the only
way she will create opportunities for herself – and the girls who follow her.
Voice 1
International Literacy Day is on September the eighth. UNESCO has celebrated this day
since its beginning in 1966. United Nations agencies set goals and act to bring
education to countries all around the world. They believe that everyone gains from
sending girls to school. This includes the girl, her family, community and country. The
director–General of UNESCO said that literacy can provide the answer to development.
Voice 3
‘Literacy is a key to development. This is especially because it places people at the
centre of the development process. It is the basis of lifelong learning. Our world is
moving fast with changing technology and increasing knowledge. Literacy has the rich
promise of a fresh start and a second chance.’
Voice 2
And so intelligent young girls like Bhahkita could be successful women of the future – if
they are simply given the chance.
Voice 1
The writer of today’s programme was Marina Santee. The voices you heard were from
the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Computer users can hear our
programmes, read our scripts and see our wordbook on our website at This programme is called ‘International Literacy.’
Voice 2
We love to hear comments and questions from our listeners. You can reach us by e-
mail. Our address is radio @ English . net. Thank you for joining us in today’s Spotlight
programme. Goodbye.
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