Annually on the 8th of September, the World celebrates the International Literacy Day. The day was proclaimed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1965 and it was first celebrated on the 8th of September 1966.
UNESCO initiated this day so as to highlight the importance of literacy and learning to individuals, communities and societies. According to the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report on Education for all, about 774 million adults the world-over lack minimum literacy skills like reading and writing.
It also shows that 1 in 5 adults is still illiterate and 2/3 of them are women while 72 million children of school-going age are out of school and many others are dropping out, others attend irregularly.
South and West Asia have the lowest regional adult literacy rate with 58.6%, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%) and Arab states with 62.7%. Burkina Faso leads the pack in the countries with the lowest literacy rates at 12.8%, followed by Niger at 14.4% and Mali at 19%.
The statistics are quite appalling not because all the 4 countries are on the African continent; but because the report shows that there is a clear connection between illiteracy and severe poverty and a link between illiteracy and prejudice against women. It’s more likely that a poverty stricken country, where women are still undermined will have low literacy rates.
The 2008 was is ‘Literacy and Health- Literacy is the best remedy’ and it is aimed at emphasizing Literacy and Epidemics while focusing on communicable diseases such as HIV-Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
These diseases are currently the World’s most worrying public health concerns. The HIV Aids epidemic in particular has wrecked havoc on the African continent while Malaria has caused more deaths that any other disease annually particularly on the African continent.
While other continents seem to be fast moving out of illiteracy, Africa remains at the rear end particularly because of its technological backwardness and its underdeveloped ICT Sector.
ICT is very instrumental in research and it’s through research that innovations and new discoveries on how problems can be solved come up.
Perhaps this is the reason Asia is fast moving out of poverty and illiteracy given its fast transformation into the World’s ICT hub.
At the moment China and South Korea in particular boast of the World most prosperous ICT industry, much to the envy of the United States and Europe.
Africa has always had no option but to look on and take advantage of the relatively cheap products from Asia and in a slow but sure manner, the continent is shedding off its image of the World’s backward continent in ICT development, slowly climbing up the ladder and eventually, there is overwhelming interest from Developed Nations to invest in Africa’s ICT Sector.
African Countries have also not objected, but have gone on to embrace offers from Western Countries, donor and Investors willing to sink billions of dollars into ICT projects.
There are high hopes that once the laying of the undersea Optical fiber cable linking Africa to the rest of the World is complete, Africa will join the Global village and will no longer be looked at as the “Black Continent” in that matter.
However, Rwanda, a tiny East African Country has stunned the whole world, transforming itself from a country once devastated by genocide (recently in 1994) to the Region’s ICT hub.
Rwanda’s fast growing ICT sector has caught its neighbors off guard and has left them wondering how a small country, still in the reconstruction phase can beat them at establishing the best ICT Projects in the Continent.
But to me, the highlight of the development is the ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD Project recently commissioned in Kigali. It is a historical breakthrough towards eliminating illiteracy and poverty.
President Paul Kagame and his friend Nicolae Negroponte have not only devised means to eliminate illiteracy but a means to do away with all the other ills affecting Rwanda and Africa such as disease, lack of innovativeness end every other aspect where Africa lags behind the rest of the World.
The project is a blessing to Rwanda because it targets children, it known that children learn faster than adults and adapt to new situations better than their grown up counterparts.
They are quite adventurous too; it’s amazing what these young one’s will do with these machines under the watchful eyes of adults. Don’t be surprised if we come up with new Computer Geeks to take over from where Bill Gates and the likes will stop.
They will stun us with a new era of rare skills and innovativeness on the computer, right from childhood to adulthood, it’s an era we cannot wait for any longer, and we need it sooner!
All that is needed is connecting these laptops to internet and regulate it to combat pornography and the kids will be good to go.
This way, literacy rates will dip dramatically with children and adults learning more from the internet especially about diseases, poverty and the economy.
The internet is also a source of enormous knowledge as far as education is concerned. If the project lives up to its expectations, Rwanda will not only determine the pace, but become a role model in Literacy development for all African countries to follow.
It should be noted though that the way the project will be managed will largely determine its success. The one Laptop Per Child Project had earlier been started in Nigeria but the project became a subject of controversy and it has been termed as a ‘Failure’.