My thoughts and activities for "Education for all" in the literacy and literary conference by Tajima Shinji
Among the discoveries of humankind, literacy is truly fascinating. Forms of writing handily allow knowledge and information to be stored and configured, and transmitted at will across time and space throughout our world. These written letters, numbers and figures record the thought and activity of individuals and peoples, and nurture expression and communicative ability such as have provided motivational force for great change in contemporary society. Modern civilization owes its very existence to this. However, a billion adults in our present world are unable to read or write. One of every seven persons in the world is illiterate.
War-burdened Afghanistan suffers also the effects of the lowest literacy rate in the world, with nearly all rural women being totally illiterate. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are concentrated in our Asian region. Furthermore, a great gap exists between those with and those without – not only in economic terms, but also in regard to knowledge and information dependent upon literacy skills. Along with the many children unable to purchase even a single picture book are a growing number of children unable to read even a simple one due to no education and poverty.
It is not as if the power of literacy skills could resolve all problems. Born in Hiroshima and living in these times, I have felt a pervasive dark shadow taking hold in my consciousness. Experiential knowledge of the 11 March 2011 triple disaster known in Japan as “3/11” – most particularly the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident – has imprinted upon my mind a nightmarish peril which has been facilitated by our pursuit of the energy to light and drive our civilization. Our intentions toward prosperity in society, where it seemed that all conveniences would at last be ours as scientific technology brought progress, may now appear as nothing more than a more complex expedience not to be confused with progress. Can a supposedly endless supply of energy produced by human hands truly bring happiness to our species? Are our human powers of literacy now enabling a society of contentment?
Well…at Fukushima, by means of a level-8 nuclear accident and meltdown accompanying a powerful earthquake and tsunami, society has taken on a ruinous countenance. So many men, women and children have had their health seriously endangered. High-density radiation produced by reactor core meltdown is scattered across air, land and water, even out into the Pacific Ocean. This is a situation beyond human control. This civilized world of ours has been molded by our species through the powers of thought and expression, through our words. It is a fact that the production and operation of nuclear power facilities has been concentrated in nations with high literacy rates. Literacy functions grandly in building the foundations of culture, science and society, but in today’s world it lacks a guiding philosophy, seeming to exist only as a composite representative of the 3 R’s – reading, (w)riting & (a)rithmetic.
However, literacy needs to be attended by a philosophy, a direction. It is not only a question of whether or not one can read, write and calculate, for it is the humanness of the individual, with a consciousness of basic values and objectives shared among all humanity, that makes literacy a rich asset for both the individual and society. How often has the written word been employed in bringing unhappiness and even death to people? Even now this is happening. Expressive capacity, knowledge, and technology made possible through written characters should be applied with recognition of the responsibilities of the user. Literacy exists to empower the human being, dispel misunderstanding, prevent conflict, and make the world a place where mutual understanding and trust can bring people together.
In other words, as simply a tool of universal utility, the seed of literacy can through misguided objectives grow into an atomic weapon. Or, through incomplete understanding surrounding intended peaceful applications, it may become the progenitor of radiation capable of continuing to wreck nature in our planet for thousands or tens of thousands of years.
I consider the power of literature to be a beacon to guide us back from wayward directions to a position focusing on human values. Literature leads us to experience in mind the possibilities for being more fully inspired and directed as human beings, aiming for freedom while trying to give life to truth and joy, putting behind us falsehood and distress. From multifarious ancient tales we are invited to a world of joy and gratitude and realization of the need to pursue truth for the benefit of our shared society. For children, literature stimulates thoughts and feelings that lead them to wonder what a truly prosperous world could be.
In 1988, I have written the story “The Legend of Planet Surprise “ . This story was translated into more than twenty eight languages in the world. In this story I wrote “ On Planet Earth, it was said, there lived the most amazing creatures of the universe-human beings, the Earthlings. Especially surprising were the big words that the Earthlings could make,and how by their hands they made their living. It was truly enough to make anyone in the universe breathless,so surprising it was.”Words are such useful things!”
“Words can make things that we can't see, and hands can make visible things from words.” “ Of all creatures in the Universe, By their hands the most amazing things, In their words such wisdom.”
However, yes, Literacy can be a tool of war through which civilization could be destroyed, but through joint efforts of seemingly powerless persons it has so often produced things of beauty to effect evolution of noble values for living. The value of constructing literacy through the medium of literature is there for us to observe.
As is evident in contemporary politics and economics, we in society also tend to ascribe precedence to visible, concrete movements. However, most crucial for positive evolution in our world in any era is a human-centered education solidly bolstered by the intangible foundations of society. Discarding this would result in breakdown of society itself. For the sake of all those women and children, we must not relent on efforts to produce enjoyable visionary literature abundantly stimulating creative and thoughtful mental powers, thereby perpetuating formulation of a richly literary literacy. Literacy and literature must promote not only change in society, but its progressive evolution.
From now on, development of computer skills and other aspects of the broader literacy required in today’s world should be accompanied by striving for actualization of empathic living. People -- especially women and children -- of Asia and Africa are crying out for literacy skills that can give them a fair chance at survival, and for the knowledge that can make possible a life with dignity. Our response as privileged literate members of the world community in this information age should be the affirmation of a universal ethic of literacy for all. Only in a peaceful setting can literacy programs flourish. Reading and writing must be promoted, not as a means of dividing humanity, but as a web of understanding to link individuals and societies. I am determined to put into practice experience gained in the past to, with the advice and collaboration of other concerned individuals and agencies, work to achieve a platform of mutual understanding upon which new progress transcending geopolitical boundaries can help bring hope to the young generations to whom the future belongs.
our activities are on Literary Literacy development on ESD as follows:
(1) Established of Four Kiran libraries for children in 4 jails of Pakistan:
The children's ward of the prison is a direct reflection of deep contradiction existing every society. Turned into criminals by their state of poverty, thrown into prison with no understanding of the law, lost and forgotten by their families. Our endeavor along with local volunteers to encourage the boys through books, pictures, photographs, and simple vocational training and computer classes have begun.
(2) Peace picture books were published under Joint publication Program
We have taken on the challenge of coordinating the Joint Publication venture on the theme of peace in which artists and writers of concerned countries work together and published 4 titles since 1998 under this project as follows:
“Fly High in the Sky”,” Lost and Found”, Red and Blue Pencils”, “Titli and the Music of Hope” In India, National Book Trust (NBT)has published these publications in English and other languages in 2012.
(3) Creative stories for children and young adults by Tajima Shinji
“The Legend of Planet Surprise” 28 languages translation including English version “The Lonely Fox” 28 languages translation including English version
“ Gaudi's Ocean” 20 langauges translation including English version
“Cloud Tales” 7 languages translation including English version
“Dinosaur of the Desert” Japanese, Korean and 12 Indian languages
“Where Does Spring Come From?” Japanese and English version
In India, SAHITYA AKADEMI has published “ The Legend of Planet Surprise” in 7 languages since 1994and etc. as the one of the reference of the activities.
by Tajima Shinji (author, ICLC chairman)