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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 7, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta has announced Cabinet approval of a National Literacy Policy.

He said the National Literacy and Awareness Council and the Literacy Policy Task Force have been working on the policy for several months.

He revealed that about half of the country's population is print illiterate.

"The 1990 National Census placed Papua New Guinea's print literacy rate at 45.1 per cent. This means that as many as two million or more Papua New Guineans cannot read or write. Of this number, considerably less than five percent are enrolled in literacy classes," he said.

Sir Mekere said indications are that the literacy rate had not increased much in the last 10 years, and the approval of the literacy policy would ensure this negative trend is reversed.

"The ability to read and write is becoming more and more essential in today's changing world. Those who cannot read or write are disadvantaged in many aspects of everyday life," he said.

The Prime Minister said human development is important in Papua New Guinea, as enshrined in the National Constitution.

He said: "Print illiterate people are hampered not only in economic opportunities, they are also hampered in spiritual and political opportunities. Even social opportunities are more limited for the print illiterate person."

Sir Mekere acknowledged the efforts of the churches and other non-governmental organizations, which have carried out a lot of literacy work over the years, and are still being looked to as the major implementing agencies for the policy.

He said: "The Government will work in partnership with the NGOs to ensure that more people are given the opportunity to learn to read and write."

Sir Mekere said among the groups marked for special attention in the policy are elementary school-age children (ages six to eight) who are not enrolled in school, and out of school youth and adults.

"As more children are enrolled in elementary, more attention will be focused on out-of-school youth and adults."

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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