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  • Michelle Boshoff

How Can We Reduce Illiteracy?

On the 8 September 1965 UNESCO declared the 8th September International Literacy Day. It was to mobilize the international community to come together and eradicate illiteracy. In 2015, it was reported that 774 million adults in South Africa, 15 years and older, still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (493 million) are women. On International Literacy Day we should ask ourselves - what can we do to help eradicate this?

We can start with eradicating poverty. Simple enough? Poverty is arguably the most extreme problem in the world today. In ways it holds back any form of sustainable development in a country. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is aiming to “end poverty in all forms everywhere” by 2030. They would like to do this by taking the following actions: 

  • improving access to sustainable livelihoods,

  • entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources;

  • providing universal access to basic social services;

  • progressively developing social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves;

  • empowering people living in poverty and their organizations;

  • addressing the disproportionate impact of poverty on women;

  • working with interested donors and recipients to allocate increased shares of ODA to poverty eradication;

  • and intensifying international cooperation for poverty eradication.

This is only a few goals they have laid out. But this poses the questions. Is it even possible to end poverty? Lets wait and see? Where do you start?

For me the starting point will be education however for many children and adults the choice between a book and a warm meal is an easy choice to make. They would go for the meal. Starving, they would rather focus on where the next meal will come from than seeking an education. Even though long term an education will be more beneficial for them and for the local community.

Advocating for the importance of education therefor becomes essential in tackling illiteracy and in the long-term poverty. If you teach an adult to read and write their chances of getting a job increases which means they can feed their families and send their children to school. However access to schools are not always that easy. Many children in rural communities in Africa struggle to get to school because of the distance they would need to travel. When they do make the journey by the time they get to school they would have been walking for hours and often without a descent meal. Providing simple transport would help these children get too school, rested and ready to learn. Once they get to school they would not always have all the resources they would need. Often having to share books, desks and cramming as many children as they can in small classrooms. By recycling books and donating them to these rural schools you can help by giving them access to a wealth of information and enabling to learn to read and write.

With all the challenges the children have already faced you would want to ensure that when they do get to school that they receive the best teachers available to them. This can do this by ensuring that they teachers get the right, up to date training.

So who’s responsibility is it help take on these challenges? Governments? Charities? Local Communities? Me? Or You? They are not easy things to fix and various organisations have been trying to tackle these challenges for years. It would appear that in order to tackle illiteracy all we have to do is stamp out poverty. Easy? Right? If only it was. . .

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