Monday, 20 August 2012

ILLITERACY; Causes, Effects & Solutions

The word “illiteracy” is ambiguous; it is akinesia to the state of mind of the individual concerned. Illiteracy is often used as the opposite of literacy.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defined literacy as "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

Therefore, base on the above definition, I can depict illiteracy as the” inability of an individual to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.”

Illiteracy keeps people chained to ignorance, slavery, inaction and exploitation in a number of ways. For example, an individual might refuse medical care because of faith in a clergy.

“As centuries of dictators have known, an illiterate crowd is the easiest to rule; since the craft of reading cannot be untaught once it has been acquired, the second-best recourse is to limit its scope.” ― Alberto Manguel, The History of Reading

In the antediluvian times, only a small percentage of the world population are considered as literate whom are regarded as the elite of the society, thus, the majority of the population are regarded as illiterate. Furthermore, illiterate people are the inferior segment of the society moreover the underdeveloped countries are mostly in the bond of illiteracy. The level of illiteracy in a society is always measured by human development index which constitutes; life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living of a country.

A study conducted by the World Statistics Institute (WSI) shows that over 27% of the world population are illiterates. Another study by the same institute shows that the speed at which illiteracy rate rises is 32%. These rates are relatively important, as illiteracy has negative effects on the society at large.


- Sometimes people who are illiterate are called the un-educated people.

The most important effect is that illiteracy works as an inhibitor to the society, in other words, the more illiterate people in a country; the harder it will be for the country to progress. Illiteracy not only limits the full development of individuals and their participation in society, but also has recoils throughout life, affecting a person’s family environment, limiting access to the benefits of development, and preventing the enjoyment of other human rights.

Illiteracy is caused by lack of proper education. Education is the bedrock for the future, therefore, if you don’t have education, you might be considered as the rejected in the society. Education comes with a sub-conscious elation of optimism. Someone without education might feel intimidated by an educated person just because proper education enlighten an individual to know his/her rights, with education, he/she can differentiate between ethicality and morality.

“70 out of 100 people in the world cannot read... if you can read then you are the luckiest out of 2 million people in the world that cannot.” - Call Bain

- Economic condition of the people which we can also regard as “Poverty”.

“Poverty or destitution refers to the state of severe deprivation of basic human needs, which commonly includes food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care, education and information.” - Wikipedia

Poverty is a by-product of illiteracy, which is why most underdeveloped countries have the highest rate of illiteracy in the world. An impoverish person will always undermine his capability to soar beyond a certain limit, he is a pessimist, he does sometimes believes that the world owes him a living. Poverty deters an individual to contribute his quota to the society, it impede social-economic development of any society. A destitute individual sees health care, education, housing e.t.c as a dream which cannot be achieved throughout his time on earth, since he does not have the means to satisfy his basic needs, other categories of needs are fantasy. Illiteracy which usually begets poverty is a psychological and evolving process which every society should tackle from the grass-roots.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ― Nelson Mandela

- Genetic effects

Illiteracy has a hereditary effect if it is not abolished early. It transcends generations, be it current or future generation.

As the saying goes "we came to this earth with nada and we will leave with nada". We are all born without the knowledge of the society which we found ourselves, therefore, there is a need to acclimatize and familiarize ourselves with the society. Most of our characters, habits and pet peeves are all acquired during childhood. At a tender age which I regard as strategic age gap, mostly between 1 to 4 years, children learn about the society from their ambiance which is mostly the parents. It is in this strategic age gap that children learn between good and bad, reality and fallacy, morality and immorality, God and Satan e.t.c.

The children of illiterate parents are more likely to be illiterate compared to literate parents. If an illiterate parent does not want their children to be illiterate, chances are that by observation, the children will eventually become illiterate because they will reflect the attitude and character of their parents.

Illiterates people tends to take everything hook-line-and-sinker, they believe everything they are being told and make irrational decisions. They are not knowledgeable to challenge opinions, hence their enemies seems to be someone who wants to help them to cure their ignorance.

“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.” - Bertolt Brecht


Reminiscing back to history; the uneducated majority of the populace are slaves, maid, helpers, assistants e.t.c while the educated are the kings, princes, queens, princess’s, sultans, advisers e.t.c.

Illiteracy is not natural, neither is it inherent - it can be cured, reduced and eradicated by universalizing primary and secondary school education at a no cost. This can be achieved by both private and governmental institutions teaming up together to provide supports, policies and finances. Russia and China are perfect epitome of countries who conjuncted together to say NO to ILLITERACY.

The individual, society and government have responsibility in solving the problem of illiteracy. The utmost responsibility lies with the parents who are the first instance impact to their kids.


Paul Adepoju, ACMI