Friday, September 2, 2016
Global Literacy Rises, But Nearly 800 Million Can’t Read
“In 2011 there were still 774 million adults in the world who lacked basic literacy skills. Three-quarters of them were living in South Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa, and two-thirds were women,” reports a new book, What’s Really Happening To Our Planet? The Facts Simply Explained, by Tony Juniper (DK).
There’s hope the problem will decrease as the newest generation gets an education.
Juniper notes: “The past 30 years has seen substantial efforts from governments, charities, and individuals to improve people’s prospects to enter employment, generate income, and contribute to development.
“The challenge in achieving universal literacy begins with the acquisition of basic skills during childhood and access to primary education. This was one focal point for the Millennium Development Goals – a set of eight goals set out in a UN invitation in 2000- and today 91% of children receive primary schooling.”
Significant problems still exist for women and in certain countries. For instance, in Somalia, only 50% of the men can read and write. For women, only one in four can do so.
Even where there is success, there is failure. In Mali, the adult literacy rate doubled in 15 years, but this still means less than half of the nation is literate.
Niger is the least literate spot in the world. Only 19% - not even 1 in 5 – are literate. That rate improved by 33% over the past 15 years.
There are 13 countries with a literacy rate below 50% for adults, with all but one in sub-Saharan Africa (Afghanistan).
“Because of several military coups and ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence,“ Juniper writes, “literacy rates have fallen dramatically from 50% to 36%.”
We know literacy is so important – to a country, family, and individual. We also know the book publishing industry is dependent on having literate masses to market to. Barring certain physical or mental handicaps, almost anyone could become literate. It’s one of the few problems that can actually be solved directly by money. More funds for education will lead to more people learning how to read and to soar beyond a bare-necessity level of functioning. Maybe 20 years from now, as the planet’s adult population increases, we’ll see fewer illiterates. Some aging, illiterates will die and their replacements will come out of a system of education. But we need to intervene now to help more than half a billion adults gain their freedom, by teaching them how to read and write.
I can’t imagine a world without books, newspapers, and magazines, and yet over 750 million people live without knowing the pleasures and advantages of experiencing what is a basic right.
Volunteer at your nearest school or literacy center. Donate funds to overseas organizations that help bring the gift of literacy to others. Educate yourself on this problem and advocate for those without a voice. 774 million people can’t read this blog post. It’s up to the billions who can, to help those in need.
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