Literacy, a simple but meaningful word. In my opinion, that one simple word embraces the foundation of a nation. Looking back at history, Indonesia had a close relationship with literacy. The nation had various scripts spanning over Java, Sunda, Sumatera to Eastern parts of Indonesia. It is very sad that they disappeared after the arrival of the invaders, who marginalized education as one of the literacy forms. The nation’s literacy was imprisoned by the invaders’ policies, making literacy an exclusive gift for a small portion of the population.
Impact of the invasion is still evident to this day. Many of the country’s children do not have a close bond with literacy. This gap happens at various level. Some children are able to find books as a literacy symbol, but many more are not yet able to find decent books. Indonesia’s literacy is currently ranked in the bottom two globally, second only to Botswana. However, it doesn’t mean that the reading interest is low in the country. The actual reason is that books distribution is too centered in the big cities. If we let this imbalance to continue, literacy growth in Indonesia will be slow and will cause a domino effect. Sluggish literacy distribution will worsen the education, and poor education will cause the nation to remain stagnant, or even worsen.
In this millennial era, we are rebuilding literacy path. The Government, formal education institutions and various NGOs are working hand in hand to build a better literacy in Indonesia. One of the concrete step taken by the government was the monthly free book delivery all over Indonesia. Schools also took part and provided 15 minutes reading time before lessons start. Some NGOs also started their initiatives to improve literacy distribution.
However, all the effort that we are doing to build literacy will be a waste without supports, especially supports from the youth. Because the youth is the motor of the nation, and they are the main points for the continuity and sustainability of the paths to literacy that we are building. As the Indonesian founding father, President Soekarno, said, “Give me 10 youths and I will shake the world.” There are many ways to shake the world, one of them is literacy.