"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Illiteracy in Today's World

Literacy is the ability to read a write, or the ability to use language in communication and understanding, which seems simple enough, and yet only eighty two percent of the current population of those over fifteen years of age is literate. Illiteracy is a large concern for today’s society despite growing trends toward higher education. There are many countries where those of a lower class are not able to obtain the same education as those who can better afford it, so children are growing up without proper instruction in reading and writing even though education is a universal right. The main countries of concern are India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Egypt, where mostly women, but also men, are living life illiterately. Because so many are not able to read and understand, they can be manipulated and tricked by a corrupt government that is able to persuade uneducated people as it likes. Focusing on India and Pakistan, you see some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. In Pakistan, only about fifty percent of the population is literate, most of whom are men, and in India, only sixty one percent of the total population of those over fifteen years of age are literate. If you look at Canada, you find that ninety nine percent of the population is literate, and it is selfish of those who receive a proper education to not help those who do not. It is time for us to take action against the lack of education in these countries, especially India and Pakistan, because if nothing is done now, people without education will continue living in the dark in today’s more educated world. Education is a universal right for each person, and action must be taken to fulfill everyone’s natural born right to read, write, comprehend, and function in today’s society.

In an attempt to continue the fight against illiteracy, I propose to open more schools for older people who need to learn the basic skills to function in today’s society and to also implement in-home tutoring programs for those who do not like a public setting. By first focusing in India and Pakistan, I hope to give as much free education to those who are willing in order to, over the long term, possibly raise the literacy rate of older people in these countries. Many people have no idea that they are born with the right to education, but it is time to take control and allow people to live a well-informed life with the basic needs to be an active partner in society.

To start off the program, I propose raising money here in Canada and the United States, through donations to charity. Many people are willing to give money to those who are underprivileged in the world, and so by expressing a need for funding will, I believe, bring in enough money to begin the program.

In the first development of schools for those who are illiterate, I plan to find volunteers in both Pakistan and India who are interested and willing to donate time and effort to a most important cause. I would like to work with UNESCO and other organizations fighting world illiteracy in order to find tutors and teachers for this task. Finding instructors will be the hardest task in implementing my plan since they will not be paid but only thanked for their large contribution to society.

Once tutors are in place, we must find locations for classes to take place. It is also important to inform people of the new programs coming into place through word of mouth, since this may be the only mode of communication that can reach our target.

Another problem that we must face in our fight against illiteracy is a cultural barrier of both Pakistan and India, where women are not considered to be as important as men, and therefore do not get the education they deserve. In order to break through this barrier we must offer an in-home tutoring program for women who are left home to do the chores while men are interacting with society. With such a tutoring program, even if men don’t feel as though women should be publicly educated, women will be able to be educated in the privacy of their own home. This concept may take time due to the fact that women are considered to be lesser beings in these two societies, yet I believe our program will make good progress in the future.

The main point of the program against illiteracy is to educate those who did not have the chance, and the most important part is to keep consistency in our offered classes, so that anyone is able to come whenever he or she likes in order to be part of a well-educated society.

Currently, the main provider of education to those who are less privileged is UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which has established schools in regions where illiteracy rates are high. In India, UNESCO started its program in 1946, when its office was located in New Delhi in order to help those regions close by. As of the close of the year 2006, UNESCO has forty-six schools in India that are currently providing education to those in need. In Pakistan the UNESCO program started later, but it seems to be more developed as indicated by the number of schools in the country. Two hundred and thirty eight schools are members of a program that is associated with UNESCO and its education resources. With the help of UNESCO, Pakistan is working to reach its goal of Education for All (EFA) in the future.

Creating a new organization to work with those already existing to eliminate illiteracy is a very good idea in today’s society, where it is nearly impossible to live without basic reading and writing skills. An organization offering both public and private lessons is best in the situations in both Pakistan and India since it will be able to help against the cultural barriers that must be broken. It is selfish for us, as literate Canadians and Americans, to sit back and watch people suffer, and so it is time for us to step up and take action against the horrible problem, which is illiteracy.

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