Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

Illiteracy in the world

“Illiteracy refers to the inability to read and write” claims UNESCO association. This issue does not seem to affect us because we have always been in an environment where reading and writing are taken for granted. We are surrounded by places like school, college… Therefore, we have never given illiteracy a thought and we have not realized how vast this problem is.According to Timothy Tomas Fortune,an orator, civil rights leader, journalist, writer, editor and publisher,”men may be spoiled by education, even as they are spoiled by illiteracy. Education is the preparation of the mind for future work, hence men should be educated with special reference to the work” .There is a huge number of people all over the world who are victims of illiteracy. Illiteracy is like a wall which prevents us to understand the world around. It is of an extreme importance to pull down this wall so that illiterate people could acquire knowledge and freedom. About 800 million people across the world lack the basic reading and writing skills needed to accomplish simple tasks such as reading a medicine label or filling out a job application, consting the global economy more than $1,19 trillion a year, according to a new report, “Economic and Social Costs of Illiteracy” released at the World Literacy Summit of Oxford in association with Pearson. The summit aimed to put in place a sustinable action plan to deal with the problem of illiteracy said in an article the TNN ,April 16, 2012.

Understanding the world around us is of great importance in order to acquire freedom. A positive and productive interaction between two or more people requires in most of the cases the ability to read and write. These abilities are supposed to be the basis of general education, but this statement is far from the truth. Illiteracy is one of society’s important faults. It limits (restricts) people when choosing and determining their goals.

Moreover, the increasing dependency on new technologies, which accelerates the progress of countries, is making it more difficult to those who are unable to read and write. The illiterate person feels isolated from modern society, which is a hostile and challenging one. Illiteracy is a universal matter, with one out of five adults suffering from it all over the world. According to the Literacy Council of Buncombe County, in the United States around 30 million people over the age of 16 have not better reading skills than elementary school children.Illiteracy-and-Us

Literacy is essential because it opens the door to individuals’ self-development, which is the key to face the difficulties of our current society. The illiterate person faces obstacles that the literate individual does not even think about, on both personal and social aspects. Their low level of knowledge is translated into serious employment issues. Illiteracy acts as a chain that prevents liberty, leaving the individual in a state of slavery from which he cannot escape. The only way of acquiring freedom is through knowledge.

Every individual has the right to education. This right is recognized by the Universal Declaration of 1948, due to the importance of education towards the growth and development of society. Everyone must be aware that the right to education is a fundamental right, so that everybody acquires the necessary skills to reach employment, and social and civic equality.

Poverty is one of the main causes of illiteracy. According to the last researches and results of the UNESCO, twenty percent of the young population in undeveloped countries does not finish primary school. This leads to a lack of working skills. In most of the cases, these countries are so overwhelmed with poverty and other supposedly major issues that education is set aside by the governments. Consequently, the fundamental right to education is denied to the youngest population.analfabetismo

However, poverty is not just linked to developing countries. In the most developed ones, it is also possible to find socially disadvantaged groups to whom access to education is especially difficult. Groups such as indigenous communities, poor urban dwellers, aid orphans or disabled people. Children from rural areas have also a big rate of illiteracy, due to the lack of scholar education because of agricultural and ranching labor. Some decades ago people lived a simpler life and education was no needed. Nevertheless, society spread the idea that education was indeed necessary, making it difficult for country people to keep up.

The innumerable wars and crisis are other important factors to take into account, because during these situations schools and educative centers are destroyed, preventing children from growing up intellectually. They stay with the minimum knowledge required to survive, in an environment which is full of violence, corruption and pain and where the values that they achieve are totally useless in civilization.

Another aspect which leads to illiteracy is culture. Cultural background is a considerable impediment because it limits the potential of the individual. This happens in Arabic countries, where women are pushed away and they do not have access to education. burka004Illiteracy will always be present as long as this restriction continues.

This is often due to economic reasons. School costs are high, making it difficult for disadvantaged families to afford it. School costs include a lot of secondary expenses, such as transport, books or school uniforms. Consequently, a lot of children cannot receive a scholar education and they normally help in family matters and work. Independence is another reason why people abandon their studies and start to work. Tired of parental control and oppression, many young people find their salvation in their own earnings, which will allow them doing what they want without limits and without depending on parents economic support.

Therefore, poverty is not the only reason why young population is illiterate; in many cases, people chose to be illiterate by abandoning their studies. They think they have a basic education, but the truth is that those who leave school after four to six years of primary school are neither literate nor numerate.

“Ignorance and illiteracy are obviously not synonymus; even illiterate masses can cast ballots with intelligence, once they are informed” William Orville

In all those countries where people live in absolutely poverty, lack of nutrition affects the ability of children to learn. Some researches demonstrate that all the stunted children are less likely to enroll in schools, and if they do, it is quite probable that they finish by dropping out. This poor nutrition makes them more vulnerable to disease and consequently less able to concentrate in school.

All the causes of illiteracy have several effects on the illiterate person and consequently on society. As it is mentioned before, over 27% of people are illiterate globally and the rate is ascending rapidly.Society is being extremely affected, because this problem works as an inhibitor, slowing the development and improvement of cities and countries. Countries with a low rate of illiteracy are normally developed countries, while undeveloped countries tend to have much higher illiteracy rates. It is the case of Turkey, with a 61% of illiterate inhabitants, or Iran, with a 43%.”The hall-mark of American humor is its pose of illiteracy” claims Ronald Knox, an english theologist and literate.

Consequently, not being able to read and right is a synonym of poverty in most of the cases.

In conclusion, illiteracy is a current problem in our society, which affects people from all ages. However, we can put an end to it if we make an effort all together. We can help through donations to the different foundations to make sure that every person has the chance to be literate. Furthermore, we must keep an eye in our surroundings to help the people who are closer to us, so that they do not misuse their opportunity to acquire knowledge.

“Knowledge is power”

.Sir Francis Bacon, Religious Meditations, Of Heresies, 1597 English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561 – 1626)


–         Central Intelligence Agency (CIA):  [last access December 2013]

–         Effects of Illiteracy on society.  [Last access on November 2013]

–         Florida State University: [last access December 2013]

–         Illiteracy and America’s Youth. Effects of Illiteracy on society.

–         Illiteracy and its impact on economy.

–         Illiteracy and the criminal justice system. [last access December 2013]

–         Leon, A Learner’s Perspective. [Last access on November 2013]

–         Lesra Martin, The devastating impact of illiteracy.

–         Serves van deer Berg, Poverty and education.

–         UNESCO :  [last access December 2013]

–         World Literacy Foundation:


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