Dear Comrades, friends, invited guests and members of the press in attendance greetings to you all!
And great thanks for making it to this humble graduation ceremony of our Matero and Mandevu literacy classes.
Why this literacy campaign?
Why is the Socialist Party spending so much time and resources on this literacy campaign? What is it for?
It is said that the future starts with the alphabet. And the future is not built in the future; it is built on the threshold of what we do today – the decisions and actions we take today. And with this literacy campaign, small and humble as it may seem, we are starting the process of building a future Zambia, a socialist Zambia, which will be more just, fair and humane.
Literacy, as part of education, is a fundamental human right. It’s also one of the key ingredients to ending extreme poverty.
Yet today there are 1.27 million illiterate adults (over the age of 15) in Zambia – this is 57 years after attainment of our political independence!
Zambia’s literacy rate stands at 55.3 per cent, with illiteracy much more pronounced in females than males.
Fundamental human rights are just that — fundamental.
Literacy improves health. Growing research shows positive correlations between adult literacy and lower infant and maternal mortality rates.
Literate women are more likely to seek medical help for themselves and their children when needed. They are also more likely to adopt more preventive health measures, like immunisation.
There’s a connection between increased literacy and attitude shifts around family planning. Literate patients also have an easier time following instructions from their doctors, and literacy is of key benefit during a health crisis.
During health crises being able to read can mean the difference between life and death. We continue to see this now during the COVID-19 pandemic: With so much misinformation about the novel coronavirus, one of the best — and most cost-effective — responses we have is education, including educating our people on prevention, symptoms, and what to do if they need treatment.
Posters, leaflets, and other materials about COVID-19 have been created and circulated across the width and breadth of our country, meaning that literacy is one of the key tools in keeping our people safe and healthy.
Literacy promotes lifelong learning and builds skills. As many of us realise after we have graduated, learning is a lifelong journey. The more we learn, the more we are able to adapt to a fast-changing world. The more we are able to adapt, the more we can continually improve our standard of living and lead longer, healthier, and more creative lives.
When we have the confidence to read, we have the confidence to learn.
Literacy improves the economy and creates jobs. Literacy is a powerful tool against poverty. Illiteracy comes at a high price.
Illiteracy costs our country’s economy billions of kwacha annually. A lack of basic literacy skills means that many people are immediately disqualified from a high number of decent livelihoods.
As part of lifelong learning, literacy skills don’t just mean better job opportunities now. They also set people up with the ability to develop their skills and find better livelihoods in the future.
Literacy promotes gender equality. It is said that every literate woman marks a victory over poverty. Women are the most powerful agents of change, and that power is even greater when they can read.
Literacy promotes justice, equity and peace. Illiteracy weakens communities and undermines democratic processes through marginalisation and exclusion. These and other impacts can combine to destabilise a nation.
When citizens are literate, they are more able to follow politics and be informed of the issues that matter to them. They are also more likely to vote and find other ways of participating in the governance of their country.
Literacy builds self-esteem and overall quality of life. If nothing else, literacy builds self-esteem. Readers who struggle are more likely to have difficulty expressing themselves, even verbally. This can lead to anxiety, depression, or other issues that impact an overall quality of life.
The more able a person is to express themselves, the greater their confidence, their self-esteem, and their chance at living a happy, healthy life.
Comrades, let’s do all that we can to combat illiteracy. This is a humble and dignified task. The socialist character of our party will be enhanced through this humane effort that provides a lifetime opportunity to read and write to the masses of our people.
I am proud of the tireless efforts put in by our literacy campaign team. I am equally humbled by the enthusiasm and effort exhibited by the learners themselves. There is much to look forward to for mother Zambia.
President of the Socialist Party
February 12, 2022