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Education for every child, everywhere

© © UNICEF/NYHQ1994-1366/Shehzad Noorani
An eight-year old girl in Bangladesh is left with little choice but to break bricks from dawn to dusk to survive, earning around RM 17 (US$ 4.80) a month. Illiterate and without an education, she is helpless to claim her right to a better, safer future.

International Literacy Day •
8 September 2009

UNICEF appeals for support to help educate every child, so that they are empowered to participate, protect themselves and contribute towards social development.

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 August 2009 – A child who is not literate is deprived of opportunities for education, participation and self-improvement.

This International Literacy Day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spotlights the importance of literacy as the key learning tool and the foundation for fulfilling every child’s right to education.

“Without the building blocks of literacy, children have far fewer opportunities to fully participate in their communities or to gain knowledge that can improve their lives and that of their families,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Mr Youssouf Oomar.

The theme of literacy underlines UNICEF’s appeal to raise funds for education programs in Malaysia and around the world, and give children a boost in life.

The ABCs of life

In one of the slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 12 year-old Hosneara worked as a brick-breaker and earned less than RM 1.20 a day. Her employer used to cheat her on the length and height of the bricks because she could not count for herself.

After attending classes initiated by UNICEF with the Government of Bangladesh, Hosneara learned to count and could defend herself from being taken advantage of.

“The value of literacy goes beyond the ability to read, write and count. For the 93 million primary-aged children who are estimated to be out of school, it means that they are less able to escape poverty, be healthy, grow strong or be safe,” said Mr Youssouf.

© UNICEF Malaysia/2007/Nadchatram
Orang Asli mother Lijas Jais (27) with her children in Kg Peta, Endau-Rompin, Johor. Lijas is happy and proud her eldest daughter Juni (L) is able to attend school to get an education, an opportunity she never had when she was young.

In Malaysia, the number is far less due to Government efforts to democratise education since the days of Independence. Today, more than 90 per cent of primary-aged children in the country attend school.

The Ministry of Education, however, estimates that some 125,000 primary-aged children are not in school, a result of remote locations and socio-economic factors like cultural traditions and poverty.

”The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises every child’s right to receive free primary education in a safe, healthy and protective environment, regardless of gender, background or mental and physical abilities,” Mr Youssouf emphasised.

Unlocking the future

The Government of Malaysia recognises the need to address these disparities in access, equity and quality of education, especially among vulnerable groups of children, including children living in rural and remote areas, indigenous children and Orang Asli children.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF is supporting this goal through innovative programs that improve literacy among children from Orang Asli communities and remote schools of Sabah and Sarawak.

“I myself have never been to school. I can’t believe my daughter will have a chance to attend school. I hope her success will be an inspiration for other children,” said Lijas Jais, a 27 year-old Orang Asli mother from Kampung Peta, Johor.

In many other parts of the world, UNICEF works to ensure that children are in school where they belong, whether they are girls at risk of gender discrimination, former child soldiers from conflict areas, children forced to work in urban slums, or children affected by disasters and crises.

Building alliances with partners in Malaysia and around the world, UNICEF is working in unity to advocate for, and support, policies that address the factors affecting children’s access to education.

“A childhood without education is no childhood at all. Public support for our programs will help ensure that we prevent this tragedy for children everywhere,” said Mr Youssouf.

To find out more about how to donate to UNICEF’s education programs, call 03-2095 9154.



ABOUT International Literacy Day
International Literacy Day is observed on 8 September every year to remind the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. This annual observance provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to literacy and education, as well as to highlight the underlying factors leading to disparities in achieving universal literacy. The Day is an opportunity for all governments, NGOs and the media to demonstrate their support in keeping literacy high on national, regional and international agendas.

ABOUT UNICEF and its work with Education
UNICEF’s programs are guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, supporting the inherent belief that education is one of the basic rights for all children. Education should enable the child to develop to his/her full potential, promote respect for human rights, the child’s own culture and the natural environment and to promote values of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality and friendship. UNICEF is committed to helping children in Malaysia realise all their rights that enable them to receive equal access to quality education. For more information, please visit  

MEDIA PRIMA RADIO NETWORKS support International Literacy Day
From 1-7 September 2009, Hot FM, Fly FM and One FM will be airing PSAs on literacy and education, sponsored by Media Prima Radio Networks. For frequencies, visit, and


Indra Kumari Nadchatram, UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9157 • (6) 012 2926872 •

Shiao Eek, Tee, UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9154 • (6) 012 2070138 •

Faradiza Zahri, UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9154 •





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