The world marked the International Literacy Day yesterday against a backdrop of wide concerns over declining literacy levels.
Whereas nations have done well to send children to school and achieve high levels of access, the downside, which is the global concern, is that many educated people are quickly relapsing to illiteracy after formal schooling.
This has triggered vigorous debate about the quality and purpose of education — whether it is about acquiring academic papers for social advancement and careers or a lifelong practice that transcends the workplace.
It is this debate that has informed the push for lifelong and continuous education and which is more pertinent in this day and age of technological disruption, where knowledge changes fast and modes of learning diversified and customised.
Pointedly, the international theme this year was: “Literacy and skills development”, an acknowledgment that merely acquiring reading, writing and computing skills is not enough.
Literacy must equip citizens with other life competencies to be able to manipulate their environment and make a decent living.
In Kenya, the main event was in West Pokot but other activities were held in other places.
The crusade for literacy and skills is coming at a time the country has shifted focus from merely academic programmes to technical and vocational training with the understanding that they provide better pedestal for gainful employment.
It is also at the threshold of education reform that shifts focus for knowledge to competence-based curriculum.
However, it is not lost that despite success with formal schooling, a large segment of the adult population remains illiterate.
Adult literacy programme that were successful in the 1970s and 1980s have more or less grounded due to poor funding, policy gaps and sheer lack of goodwill.
The point is that the celebrations should provide a chance for reflection, assessing where we are, and making resolutions on what we ought to do.
Education paradigm must shift from imparting only knowledge but also skills and that it should be continuous throughout life.