UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize Winners for 2021 Limitless Horizons Ixil in Guatemala (LHI), National Institute of Open Schooling in India (NIOS), Paku Children’s Literature Foundation in South Africa

Date Sep 10, 2021

The 32nd UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize was held virtually in September 9th in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. The purpose of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize is to award the efforts of institutions, organizations, or individuals for their contribution to the fight against illiteracy in commemoration of King Sejong, who invented the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, in 1443.


Established in 1989, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST, Korea) supported the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize to commemorate the invention of the Korea alphabet by King Sejong and fight against the illiteracy. The Prize gives special consideration to mother-tongue based literacy development. Since 1990 until last year, a total of 56 organizations and individuals have received this award from 48 different countries. From 2021, the prize awards three laureates which increased from two until last year. Each of the three UNESCO King Sejong prizewinners receives a medal, a diploma and USD 20,000.


The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize this year was awarded to the following three organizations.

Limitless Horizons Ixil in Guatemala (LHI) receives for ‘Broadcasting Bilingual Stories: Promoting Interactive Literacy programming in Rural Guatemala’ program.


LHI is a non-governmental organization that has been working to address gender disparities and improve educational outcomes in Chajul, Guatemala since 2004. Led by local indigenous staff, LHI’s programs include the Saber Sin Límites (Limitless Knowledge) Community Library, the first and only public library in Chajul. As part of LHI activities, the program aims to promote literacy through distance learning for Maya Ixil youth, at risk of dropping out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


National Institute of Open Schooling in India (NIOS) is awarded for its ‘Enabling education of persons with disabilities through technology enabled inclusive learning material, with specific focus on Indian sign language based content’ program.


The institute is an autonomous organization under the Indian Ministry of Education aiming to provide quality education to all through open and distance learning, focusing on the educational needs of persons with disabilities, particularly the hard-of-hearing learners, and other minority groups. The program uses digital tools and local language to help persons with disability providing learners the option to access Indian Sign Language (ISL)-based content and notably developed videos in sign language version in seven subjects.


Paku Children’s Literature Foundation in South Africa receives for its ‘Using digital technologies to promote children’s literature in South Africa’s indigenous languages’ program. The Foundation is a non-governmental organization established in 2009 and has always been inspired by Nelson Mandela’s vision. It believed in harnessing the digital space to build a reading culture rooted in indigenous storytelling traditions in all South African languages.


The program aims for reading promotion and book development to help ensure that all children, especially those living in the most materially deprived areas, have access to books in all South African languages. Moreover, Paku promotes and preserves indigenous languages through children’s literature by providing training to mainly parents, writers and, educators on reviewing children’s books, and on writing children’s literature.


UNESCO proclaimed September 8th as International Literacy Day (ILD) in 1966 to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities, and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies. In 2020, the laureates of the King Sejong Literacy prize were ‘Ageing Nepal’ in Nepal and ‘United World Schools’ in United Kingdom.


The Director-General of MCST sends message that the UNESCO King Sejong Prize will serve as a good opportunity to spread the spirit of King Sejong’s invention of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, and to promote literacy development in the world.


 Hangeul is the Korean alphabet used in Korea created by King Sejong the Great in 1443. King Sejong the Great invented Hangul to promote literacy among common people and help people more easily access in writing letters, including women and young children. The letters for five basic constants reflect the shape of the speech organs used to pronounce them. Modern Hangul uses 24 basic letters, including 14 constant letters and 10 vowels.