Entering the 21st century nearly a billion people do not know how to read and write
By Spiros Tzelepis
"Knowledge is power" Bacon said many years ago, but it is strange that today, despite the great scientific and technological progress, there are people who lack the power of knowledge as they do not even know how to read or write; I am talking about illiterate people.
We could mention two categories of illiterate people:
The situation around the world referring to illiteracy is the following:
Trying to investigate the reasons of illiteracy, we could come up with the following:
Because of the above mentioned reasons the greatest percentage of illiterate people consists of adults -especially women-who had a hard time during their childhood.
Illiteracy is the greatest obstacle for the development of people and states:
1.Individually, illiterate people:
2.States which have a great rate of illiteracy have problems, too:
The solution to the problem lies in states investing more in education. Building schools everywhere, making education free for all and starting campaigns to stress the importance of education should be a priority in their policies.
"In the world economy, where defence expenditures total approximately $781 billion a year, the $7 billion more per year needed for education over the next decade remains an unmet challenge for the international community. By spending $7 billion more each year for the next 10 years-less than the amount people in the United States pay annually for cosmetics and Europeans for ice cream- the dream of educating all children could become a reality", Unicef stresses."And universally accessible education leads to fuller, healthier lives for children, greater social equity and stability, and higher levels of economic and social development."
"Investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world", Lawrence H. Summers -then Vice-President and Chief Economist of the World Bank-argued during a speech in 1992.
What keeps many countries from making a commitment to education is the debt burden they carry. The world's poorer nations carry an amount of $2.2 trillion of external debt according to a recent United Nations report. It would take an additional $1.9 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa and an additional $1.6 billion in South Asia each year for the next 10 years to educate all children. These regions have the highest rate of children out of school.
Another solution for adults who are already illiterate would be to motivate them to attend courses in order to obtain the basics of education. Motivation could take the form of a higher salary for example.
Education for all means the most vital element to combat poverty, to empower women, to safe-guard children from child labour and sexual exploitation, to promote democracy and human rights, to control population growth, to protect the environment. Education is the right for all people and the obligation of all governments.
"I can no longer be combared to the water buffalo on the farm "an Egyptian young woman who had just learnt to read and write told to the evaluation team. For her, learning how to read and write meant that she had obtained her "humanness".
Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002
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