Eradicating illiteracy reduces development costs [Archives:2007/1013/Opinion]

January 4 2007

Mohammed Al-Ariqi
Illiteracy remains a major impediment to Yemen's development plans and programs and a shame against all official and civilian forces and activities, each intellectual and every individual realizing this plague's dangers. Many problems and aspects of social backwardness reproduce and spread because illiteracy has taken root among large sectors of society.

In searching for causes leading to negative practices and numerous aspects of life, we find that illiteracy, deteriorating education and poverty play great and major roles. However, illiteracy plays the greater role in slowing the effect of plans, programs and policies aimed at improving situations and general life in society.

Yemen has formulated plans, strategies and policies in numerous areas, including family planning, reproductive health, water rationing, combating pollution and preventing infectious diseases. However, the goals of such strategies mostly conflict with loss of awareness and illiteracy's domination over a large proportion of its population, especially in the countryside.

An annual book by the Higher Education Council regarding 2004-2005 education indicators in Yemen revealed that total illiteracy among those aged 15 and up amounted to 5,484,114, with women comprising 3,678,516, and existing mainly in the countryside.

What doubles the illiteracy proportion is the Yemeni education system's inability to accommodate all of those children ages 6-14 who are at the age for basic education, let alone tangible increases in school truancy at this basic level, which degrades what little they've received due to insufficient experience and those few skills gained in the process of eradicating their illiteracy, besides the low quality of what they've learned.

Such education hasn't been of a standard that would help such school truants not return to their illiteracy. This situation represents a tributary adding to the illiteracy proportion, coupled with the low level of parental awareness.

However, the report didn't overlook improvement in efforts to fight illiteracy by increasing the number of illiteracy eradication centers during 2004-2005 to 913, as compared to 2001-2002, as well as increasing the number of classes for that purpose.

Despite appreciation for and consideration of all of these efforts, the battle to fight illiteracy didn't seem to affect it strongly, as its proportion remains high, especially among women, who must receive ample attention and sincere efforts because they comprise half of society, as well as being an essential axis in the process of change for the better.

Advanced societies have begun fighting illiteracy of another type of illiteracy, i.e., illiteracy in using communication means in both education and modern professions, whereas we're now demanded to hasten ending illiteracy in reading and writing via innovative and effective ways and methods instead of traditional methods.

I heard from a colleague the idea of “a village without illiteracy,” which one Yemeni governorate has implemented. The idea is based on adopting an initiative wherein the efforts of the area's sons are directed toward conducting an illiteracy eradication program for adult villagers, including women who've been deprived of educational opportunities in the past. Such people won't leave the village, but once they complete their task, the initiative will be taken to another village and so on.

Before us are many ways and means that we could direct seriously so as to uproot illiteracy in the shortest time. The mechanism to implement this only requires that the social administration translate words into action.

Source: Al-Thori newspaper