Columnists

Illiteracy negatively affects people’s well-being

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
READING is like breathing. Human beings need this skill to attain meaningful development at personal and societal level. In this technological age, we cannot really manage without it.
The effects of illiteracy – not being able to read or write – are not only many, but they are harmful both to an individual and the society. Illiterate individuals’ daily lives are negatively affected and their future is endangered.
In most cases, when there are several illiterate individuals in a family, very little or no value is given to education. This results in a perpetual intergenerational transmission of illiteracy. The financial standing of such families is uncertain because of lower incomes that they earn from lower-quality jobs, if at all they can find any.
Otherwise, chances are that there might certainly be no possibility of any legal and meaningful job opportunities now or forever for someone without literacy skills. There is a wide gap in terms of employment/ unemployment rates between those that have acquired a trade or professional qualification and those that are totally illiterate.
In addition to low self-esteem, which can actually lead to isolation, access to lifelong learning and professional development is reduced as one grows old. That is why young ones who do everything to avoid the shame that is associated with illiteracy should be encouraged to work hard to save them the embarrassment of being labelled as ‘worthless’ individuals in adulthood.
Today there are parents who would take a sick child to hospital, for example, and after a doctor prescribes and gives them medication, they cannot follow the physician’s instructions, or they simply abandon the medicine altogether. No doubt, this can have a grave impact not only on the child but also the parents themselves and the rest of the family.
Such experiences only prove the belief that illiterate individuals take longer to recover even from mild sickness. In fact, they often misuse valuable goods and services through ignorance. They have difficulties reading and understanding all the important details, including warnings, among others.
This extends to everyday activities which demand the ‘consumption’ and proper utilisation of varied information offered by the technological world, i.e. the Internet and the media in general. Lack of literacy skills entails limited ability to access and understand essential information aimed at improving people’s lives, both on an individual and societal level.
As societies make up states, and states, in turn, form what we presently call the global village – as a result of rapid advancements in technology and knowledge in general – the new global knowledge economy itself demands high levels of literacy among individual countries’ citizens.
If a country has a high rate of illiterate masses, it can never ‘dream’ of a possibility of rapid socio-economic development because many spheres will lack adequate, trained and knowledgeable people who should be perfectly competitive in different areas of economic importance.
Also, the difficulty in understanding societal issues among adults with no or low literacy proficiency lowers the level of community involvement and civic participation. Programmes of national importance can be initiated and communities may be encouraged to own such projects. However, if illiteracy levels are high in a country, such initiatives are bound to fail or achieve very little, however good they may be.
It simply follows that, because those without an appropriate level of literacy lack the basic tools necessary for achieving their individual and community goals, in most cases they cannot be involved fully – on a completely equal basis with those who are literate – in economic, social and political activities.
Therefore, it is just prudent that in schools emphasis should be placed on the effective development of literacy skills. In places where access to schools is limited or lacking altogether, especially in rural areas, it is important that all stakeholders – Government, non-government organisations and other players from both the public and private sectors – accelerate programmes aimed at sensitising people on the importance of acquiring reading and writing skills.
As schools are being built in such areas, adult literacy programmes should also be promoted. When this is done, people will enjoy culturally enriched lifestyles. This way the nation will effectively fight poverty.
emudenda@daily-mail.co.zm/ ephatm@yahoo.com

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