The Role of Illiteracy in Conflict and Development

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How illiteracy increases the risk of conflict, and undermines development.

Photo: nigeriawatch.com

Submitted: March 03, 2015

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Submitted: March 03, 2015

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The Role of Illiteracy in Conflict and Development

Illiteracy is the acute inability to read or write. It implies not just ignorance, but also deprivation in access to education. Research has shown that about 775 million adults, of which two-thirds are women, still lack basic reading and writing skills. It is indeed a global problem, and greatly increaases the risks of conflict as well as undermines the process of development.

Development, as it bothers on illiteracy, is a dynamic process. It empowers people and brings about significant changes in life and well-being. But without education, development cannot take place. Education, as a tool for both human and economic development, provides a society with the needed knowledge and information that is adequate enough to bring about desirable changes in its structure. Studies reveal that people with a reasonable literacy and numeracy skill tend to produce more farm crops, have limited number of children, and enjoy a relatively better quality of life, as opposed to the illiterate groups.

Undoubtedly, literacy empowers and develops societies both on political and economic fronts, and is inevitably the core of development: a child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive past age five. But still it goes beyond the acquisition of mere reading, writing, or arithmetic skills. It is the purposeful act of critically understanding and analyzing environmental, economic, as well as political scenarios. Thus, a person can possess the needed writing, reading, or even numerical skills, but may be unable to reasonably apply such endowments to accomplish tasks that are necessary to make informed choices and participate in everyday life. This is known as functional illiteracy.

Deprivation in access to education heightens the rate of crime and rebellion. Statistics show that a majority of prison inmates have poor literacy skills, and about 85 per cent of juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate; those who are still illiterate upon their release have increased probability for offending.

Violence and armed conflict does affect the rate at which literacy grows. For instance, studies have shown that of the overall percentage of the out-of-school children worldwide, about 42 per cent, live in conflict-affected areas. A country’s proneness to armed conflict is heightened if its literacy rate is low. Somalia, for instance, with a growing population of about 6.8 million has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. This means that the more illiterate a population—especially its youth—, the more likely they are to be deluded into joining rebel groups.

Illiteracy undervalues human potential on an epic scale. It restrains choices, freedom, and increases vulnerability. Poverty means not just lack of basic or social amenities, but also deprivation and infringement on the fundamental human rights— right to education, healthcare facilities, fair hearing, clean water and sanitation, freedom of choice, etc. It threatens advancement of humanity, and greatly undermines productivity. Education therefore enlarges ones choices and capabilities to lead better lives, and consequently, global education infrastructures are critical in reducing these vulnerabilities and mitigating risks.

 

 

 


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