He who knows not and knows he knows not - he is a child ; teach him
He who knows not and knows not he knows not - he is a fool ; shun him
He who knows and knows not he knows, - he is a asleep; wake him
He who knows he knows - he is wise; follow him"
I am writing this, in conjunction with the International Literacy Day 08th Sept 2009 under the "Bloggers Unite" ticket. I'm not going to start this article with the definition of “Literacy”, (I'll just link it to the Wikipedia definition, just in case), because that may insult your intelligence. If you can read this, you are already a literate person. Nevertheless, for those who can read, yet have problems understanding what it is they have just read, fear not, for it may happen sometimes - common transient phenomenon. We Malaysians get that all the time, observing some of the local road signage. For instance, peruse the signboard below and tell me what is wrong with it. I think even a 6year old can appreciate that 8 happens to fall somewhere in between 7 - 9. See what I mean, we can read it, but not understand it. Common thing, no big deal.
And we wonder how come those Singaporeans got lost in our jungle sometime back, when even the Malaysians get lost in our own town following the sign boards!!! (or in the case above, stop in the middle of the road, scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get to Precinct 8).
Well, indirectly, I have just shown you the importance of literacy, or in some isolated cases how literacy is made pointless. With this horrendous sign system, you will be better off being illiterate; at least you can concentrate on relying on other senses to gain simple direction, like the Red Indians.
Why is it important that every single human being be literate? Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Well, it is a form of communication, and it’s a gateway to knowledge. Whether the knowledge be beneficial or detrimental to the human species, that relies a lot on ethics. Sometimes, knowledge created with good intentions may end up catastrophic when fallen into the wrong hands. The atomic bomb is one example. Mind manipulation, such as fundaMENTALism prove to be unworthy. Fundamentalism may sometimes be used as a weapon in politics. The CIA for example, had been funding and training the infamous Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban, in an attempt which in fact succeeded, in chasing away the Russians out of Afghanistan. That is but another story of course.
If one were to take a look at The World Literacy Map , you will notice that countries that contributed highly to the statistics of illiteracy are mainly the third world countries especially most of the African region. This makes sense, for if a country is unable to prevent poverty and famine, it is unlikely for them to be able to promote literacy. A high rate of illiteracy could mean the inability for a country to produce people who can guide their people out of poverty and famine. It's a vicious cycle, unfortunately.
(Click on map to enlarge and peruse)
For those who did not pass that subject Geography, and have no clue to as where on the planet earth is Africa, click HERE, to peruse on the breakdown of percentages of World Literacy. As for poverty and famine, I have written in length, in the previous campaign to create awareness of poverty and famine in "World-hunger..yes we can!!...err...do-something"
In Malaysia, our literacy rate is between 80 - 90%. I am quite sure, some rigg-ing must have been going on during the production of this figure because on daily practice, I could have sworn that at least 40% of Malaysian are illiterate. You can detect them by looking the way they park their cars underneath the "No Parking" or "Parking for the disabled" signs. Or even in our public toilets whereby they cannot read the words,"Press and sustain pressure on button to allow flushing", or can't even identify the simple letter, say "Q" in short sentences like "Q Here". Or perhaps they are just playing obtuse, which makes them the worst species.
The questions remain are not just "what are we going to do about it?", but more importantly, "how willing are we to actually do something about it". While I can't really answer the second question, because, basically, you can drag the donkey to the water, but not necessarily make it drink, I can give the second question my best shot. I guess what we can do to promote literacy is we can start by volunteering to the existing organizations erected for this very purpose, that is adjacent to us, that's what we can do.
Well, as we are speaking, UNESCO, under the program called Literacy Initiative For Empowerment or LIFE for short is running to combat illiteracy. What can we do to contribute? Well, in Malaysia, we have programs for Orang Asli in collaboration with the UNICEF, click HERE to peruse details.
Or you can do simple things like start with your neighbourhood. My immediate neigbour, Ana, have 4 little cute kids. Although they are quite well to do, and the kids are literate, I notice that there are not many books made available for them to read. So what I did, was I gave up most of my daughter's books she had when she was not introduced to more sophisticated readings like the Harry Porter series, etc, gave that to the kids and they were super thrilled!! Every month, when I buy books for my daughter and me, I will make it a point to buy a few copies for the children. It may be a small contribution, but it did help in promoting their interest in reading. It would be good to push society beyond just being literate.
Life is not about getting more shoes to match all those branded attires. It's not about chasing after materialism at the expense of other human beings. It is encouraged for us to become rich, the healthy way of course, but if you can make more money than God, and use it to serve Him via the pathways He had ascertain, then by all means, show me the money. So what is it about then? This thing we call 'Life'? I dare say that it's about serving other's with sincerity and humanity. It's not doing good to get "pahala" (good deeds that will score points with God, not Pahala in Hawaii), but doing good because it's the right thing to do.
Currently, I am serving people in other manner, (and I'm not talking about my job by the way). But yes, someday, when I'm done serving the people I'm serving now, my intentions amongst many dream, will be to alleviate illiteracy. Just like Martin Luther King who had a dream, I have my own too. Mine is to make everyone literate so that they can finally read all the garbage that I intend to continue writing, and to ensure those who pretend not to be able to read the signs, understand why the signs are there, and why they should sincerely abide to them. Until then, I will just have to settle with the figure 80 - 90%....Let us all do our parts in society, shall we?