130 million children worldwide have no opportunity to receive an education,
the majority being girls as parents often send only their sons to school.
This discrimination is reflected in the fact that two-thirds of the
total global illiterates are women!
per cent of the millions of primary-age children who are not in school,
make up two-thirds of the 100 million children who drop out of school.
was like emerging from the shadows" describes one Ethiopian woman who
had just learned to read and write.
For this woman, and another 960 million adults like her, illiteracy
has presented a formidable barrier to many of the values that the majority
of us take for granted, such as personal liberation, social and economic
progress, quality of life, human rights and dignity.
the population of the planet continues to swell and knowledge continues to
accumulate at a breath taking rate a question we need to ask is why has the
world not been able to educate its own children?
The statistics clearly show that education programmes have not been
able to keep up with the population explosion.
They also show the irrefutable link between illiteracy and poverty;
the one condition fuelling the other in a vicious circle that has become
increasingly difficult to break.
Illiteracy is not a disease, to be eradicated like yellow fever, but
rather it is a complex cultural condition linked to expectations and
circumstances rooted in the environment.
the basic needs such as food, clothing, health and housing are inadequate,
learning how to read and write obviously ranks as a fairly low priority,
with the biggest slice of available resources, including such elements as
time and energy, being devoted to the daily struggle for survival.
The means of improving the quality of life through knowledge remain
living in extreme poverty and rural environments sense that they have very
little need for literacy, and until the environment and circumstances in
which they live are transformed, they in fact have little need for it.
Virtually all other problems linked to illiteracy stem from this
a national scale, economic hardship means less public spending on education.
During the 60s and 70s for example, primary education for children
was vastly expanded, however economic and structural difficulties during the
past decade have seen a falling off, and even a reversal of this crucial
Thus, in 1985, more than 100 million children between the ages of six
and 11 were not in school.
Of those children, the vast majority were in developing countries,
where the population is growing fastest, and illiteracy is most widespread.
Most of these children are in danger of swelling the ranks of the
world's adult illiterates in the years to come.
believes adult and child education must go hand in hand, but recognises
universal literacy will certainly not be achieved unless there is primary
education for children.
In 1995 governments set targets and promised primary education for
all bu 2015.
Many of those governments are failing to meet the targets adopted.
from this problem, a poor country also lacks the resources for the necessary
infrastructure to support literacy campaigns and encourage the newly
literate to practise and retain their skills.
Another, more cultural, complication that arises in many developing
countries trying to achieve literacy is the lack of a widely used language.
For example, in Papua New Guinea, for example, there are more than 600
languages for three and a half million people!
Obviously to make significant progress in a situation like than,
governments must decide on a language policy before implementing literacy
again, we see poverty raising its ugly head, overcoming the difficulties
caused by this situation takes an enormous effort in terms of resources.
However, the task is not impossible.
For example, Tanzania with its 126 tribal languages, chose to use
Swahili as the national language, and although this was initially difficult
to implement, it has produced excellent results with a high rate of literacy
Ethiopia selected 15 of its most widely spoken languages for use in
its literacy campaign and has also achieved positive results.
of the most important factors in Tanzania's success was the real, and not
just rhetorical, commitment of the government to make the population
Too often literacy campaigns are only given lip service by
governments which are not only short of money and trained manpower, but are
also less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a more articulate
population demanding fuller political participation and better government
Alternatively literacy campaigns are offered as a sort of consolation
prize in the development sweepstakes, replacing other, less easily fulfilled
demands for such strongly felt needs as land reform, water supplies,
schools, access roads and facilities for crop storage.
solutions are found to these difficulties the problem of illiteracy will
a race against population growth.
If we cannot do anything with the population we have now, the
prospects of finding the resources and the will to do something with a
vastly larger population in the 21st century are not very hopeful.
It is the only route to earning power and millions are being denied a
chance to break out of a lifetime of poverty.