South Sudan 99% is illiteracy and 10% are literacy in Federal Republic of South Sudan (FRSS)

By Ter Manyang Gatwech,Kampala,Uganda


Children learning together with their cow under a shade in part of South Sudan(Photo: via Christian Mission Aid)
Children learning together with their cow under a shade in part of South Sudan(Photo: via Christian Mission Aid)

1ST November, 2014. (Nyamilepeda) —  Literacy can be defined as ‘’one’s ability to read, write and understand the basic communications made in visual form, mostly in writing.’’ A more comprehensive definition would explain literacy as ‘’competency in reading and writing, as well as ability to use’s one language and communication skills critically and efficiency’’  This would mean the ability to think critically on what is communicated and make a positive impact on one’s life and in the life of others.

This explains the purpose of comprehensive and integrated education: to live creatively, productively and morally. Education is always multi- dimensional. A true and worthy education takes care of the body, mind heart and soul. It is the integral formation of the entire person and the society concerned. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘’the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminals may be the man talented with reason but no morals…… We must remember that intelligence is not enough; intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education’’

Literacy gives an appetite for further learning and becomes a foundation for education. An adult who is literate becomes an informed person. He or she is more likely to send his/ her children to school, encourage them to attend regularly and monitor their progress. The health nutritional practices of his or her families will be improved. They are informed about protecting the environment and eventually it brings about development in the community through solidarity, with greater awareness of one’s own rights of others.

At least 7 million people in South Sudan cannot read and write because of current regime. President Salva Kiir denies a lot of people through education.   Look at what happened in my county Ayod when Sudan People’s Liberation Army captures it in June. There is one the oldest school in Ayod County it was destroy by Salva Kiir’s forces plus the hospital. Real, how can you work with such a person who denies your children for their education?  Let us assumed President Salva Kiir has been dies accidentally can we remember him for good things or bad things? The answer is very simple, we should remember, him for 2013 massacre of ‘’Naath’’( Nuer) children, women , young boys, elderly and men in Juba, South Sudan. The school was built by Hon; Gatwech Khan  in 1955.

They are poor in two ways: economically and socially. Illiteracy restricts their ability to carry out various activities such as reading simple information like signposts, understanding necessary labels such as medical instructions, price- tags, machinery instructions, even danger warnings! These poor people end up being cheated or end up by endangering their lives. Literacy, the ability to read and write is the primary and most important step in alleviating poverty among education. It is the foundation for modern/ formal education and formation of people so as to attain an integral development.

Literacy as Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

Realizing the importance of instructing and giving knowledge to the ignorant, the church considers this duty as one of the corporal works of mercy. It is a divine mandate that is given by Christ himself to his Church to instruct God’s people in wisdom and knowledge. It is truly a spiritual activity that is very human in nature. ‘’The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy’’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 2447). Literacy makes these aforementioned works of mercy possible and easier.

Literacy as a basis of human formation

‘’Glory of God is human beings fully alive’’, Says St.Ireneus. Education makes the human being full alive. It is education that makes them live to their fullest potentially. We can confidently say that educated and literate person is able to participate in the creative of work of God. When human beings selflessly give themselves in their creative ability, they reflect the image of God worthily.
In self giving service, they become better creatures before God and neighbor. When they become the best creatures of God their souls too are spiritually formed. Thus human and spiritual formation goes hand in hand. Literacy becomes the basis of this formation.

Understanding literacy today

Paulo Freire in his monumental work: Pedagogy of the City wrote, ‘’every reading of the world is preceded by a reading of the world. Starting from the reading of the world that the reader beings to literacy  programmes ( a social- and class- determined reading), the reading of the word sends the reader back to the previous reading of the world, which is, in fact, reading.’’ In today’s context we come to know the meaning of literacy more than that learning alphabets or numerals.

Today’s notion of literacy is not merely having skills in the notion of educating oneself and personal knowledge gathering. It is reefing of one’s own life taming one’s personal abilities. We can even say that it is making a culture for oneself. Literacy today is an autonomous set of acquiring skills vital for daily life, skills that are applied, practiced and situated. It is putting oneself in the learning process. It is a combination of theory and practice.

Benefits of literacy.

As per our understanding of literacy today, the benefits of literacy are much more than mere ability to read and write and our knowledge of arithmetic. The benefits of literacy can be well understood from the United Nations’ Resolution for the literacy Decade 2003-2012; which was proclaimed in 2012.

‘’Literacy  crucial to  the acquisition , by every child , youth and adult, of essential life skills that enable them to address the challenges they can face in life, and represents an essential step in basic education, which is an indispensable means for effective of the twenty- first century’’.

Challenges in fighting for literacy

Poverty: As mentioned before, literacy is the best tool to fight against poverty. But it also becomes a vicious circle. Poverty keeps literacy away. Often people fail to access literacy programmes due to abject poverty.  A poor person often in remote rural areas remains alienated from the rest of the society or the nation due to illiteracy. His or her poverty is the root causes of this alienation.
Politics: Some politicians often take advantage of people’s ignorant and even keep their constituencies ignorant.  In Ayod County our Mps turn the money of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) into their pocket instant to ask the community on what to do for the money.

It is easy for them to manipulate the ignorant people and get through their selfish gain. Often they do not favor literacy programmes for the fear of losing their position and being challenged.

Gender bias: In many societies it is still a fact that girls and women are kept away from literacy skills and education. Women‘s illiteracy helps men to dominate and maintain their male superiority and chauvinism.

Government polices: Government through some educational and social policies keep certain section of people, tribes, and people in certain geographical locations and ethnic groups from progress.  These policies keep literacy inerasable for long period in history.
Disruption by war and conflict:  Conflicts situations can keep even generations of people in illiteracy .These are often man-made problems that bring untold suffering among people. Literacy and formation of young people is the first causality in a war situation.
A compound solution is needed to fight against these situations.  It requires collaboration with various stakeholders of the society such as individual persons, ethnic leaders, educationalists, religious leaders, and government policy makers like Public Administrators.

By Ter Manyang Gatwech, a finalist student of  Cavendish University, Uganda and pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Public Administration and Management. Also human rights activist in East Africa and beyond. Chairperson of Gawaar Community in Uganda. You contact him through his email address; termanyanggatwech@yahoo.com

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