Dhaka, BANGLADESH – As an ardent book lover, I usually prefer to spend my free time reading whether it’s a book on politics, philosophy or a coming of age novel.
When I was a kid, my father used to take me to the annual book fair to buy me books. His philosophy is that you should spoil a kid with knowledge and every penny spent on buying a book is worth it.
My father believes in the notion that investment made in books is never futile. That’s why, early on in my childhood, I preferred visits to the bookstore over restaurants.
Although the visits were not frequent due to financial restraints, the once in a blue moon visit to the bookstore was just as precious.
Now that I am somewhat of age and can comprehend matters more rationally, I have realized how lucky I’ve been.
UNESCO marked Sept. 8 as International Literacy Day to celebrate the importance of literacy in societies, something that is crucial for sustainable development.
As a child, though I lacked the financial freedom to buy books other than my academic texts, I found pirated copies were a luxury I could get at a relatively cheap price.
I was willing to make that trade off when it meant I could get my hands on three books I wanted with the little lunch money I saved instead of splurging on only one original copy. To me, it meant more knowledge.
Even with my worn-out pirated copies, I have been extremely privileged. Why? Because I had the option to read and learn beyond my academics.
Most of us don’t have the privilege to afford that. When it is tough to even afford a bare minimum education, anything beyond that is a luxury.
According to a 2019 report in the Dhaka Tribune, one in four people in Bangladesh is illiterate. Although the government has allocated a huge budget for primary and secondary education, it still hasn’t been able to remove illiteracy.
Our neighbors, Pakistan and India, have also struggled with literacy, but the whole sub-continent has progressed a lot since British rule.
World Literacy Day has an immense significance in reminding us of the importance of literacy, bringing light to progress and raising awareness to build a more literate society.
Usraat Fahmidah is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.