Friday, 12 September 2008

International Literacy Day

A little late, but better late than never.

I wouldn't know you, and you wouldn't know me, if neither of us could read. We take it for granted, you and I, that we can gather information, serious or trivial, educational or entertaining, wherever we are. Whether or not we do is up to us.

But think of all the people in the world who haven't had that opportunity, who don't have that choice. People who haven't been able to go to school. All the children in the developing world or in war-torn areas who still can't go to school.

It doesn't stop at not being able to read a book. How are they to lift themselves out of poverty, to learn about the world, to find out how to protect themselves against diseases such as AIDS? Children who don't learn to read are defenceless. Yes, there are radios, even theatre groups who tour to spread information, but how easy it is to forget the detail. To acquire information for ourselves we need the ability to read.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated the direct correlation between people’s level of literacy and their chances to maintain good health. For instance, a study conducted in 32 countries shows that women with secondary education are five times more likely to be informed about HIV/AIDS than women who are illiterate. Another example: the rate of infant mortality is higher when the mother can neither read nor write.
There are 163 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who cannot read. We should do something about it.

International Literacy Day


  1. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong looks intriguing. What's that one about?

  2. Hi Redbeard. It's a book that supposedly gives an insight into the reason why French people think the way they do, part cultural, part historical. Interesting and quite readable. I just wonder where the female half of the population went.

  3. One of these articles which make you go "Of course", but it is so easy to forget about the unfortunates who are illiterate (and probably don't have access to clean water, and who are being persuaded by these milk formula people to feed their babies formula milk made up with water which is not clean. And what about the tobacco companies now targeting third world countries just because the first world have woken up and are giving up the noxious habit?)

    Oh dear, this is a rant. Sorry.

  4. It's amazing how many illiterate people there are in rich Europe too. There's a current campaign in Germany to make (forgot the figure but it's amazing) those people go to adult school...

  5. Elaine I so very much agree with you on those points. The exploitation on both the baby feeding and smoking issues is iniquitous.

    Mar, you're right of course, we do tend to forget illiteracy in the developed world. It's probably harder to deal with in some ways because it's the result of the failure of the educational system rather than its absence.


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