Behind the mask of illiteracy 

SHARE   |   Monday, 27 November 2017   |   By Lisa Bokani Motsu

As I focus my attention and time into the society that I was born and bred into, indeed much can be said about the lifestyle that most people nowadays have adapted to. Many things can be highlighted for the sake of giving a clear testimony that undoubtedly it is our way of life and of course many things can be sidelined due to the fact of not taking some life challenges aspects very seriously. I then wonder to think how much loss will be made as I look forward to the coming years. Is there any effort that has been has been put into practice or we as people are just good and quick at giving an attitude of ignorance?  Most innocent souls in this country of ours are in need of a huge saving or probably should I say a team rescue service. After all we cannot even come close to be subjected into thinking that ‘the mighty superman’ will descend from the heavens to come and save the day. I mean that would definitely be uncalled for and indeed proves that we are basically being unrealistic. Only young toddlers may be allowed to do that kind of fantasy. Of course, it is understandable. I just beg of you to just not run out of patience or probably one may think I am beating around the bush. Well, it is always good to lay a basic foundation of imagination for a little while before one can attempt to delve onto the core issue. As always ladies and gentlemen, protocol is always observed and from that understanding I shall begin a certain predicament which has been hidden for quite a number of ages as we articulate now. Illiteracy! The wolf hiding in people’s daily life closets. The beast which is taken for granted by most people. The sheep that pretends to be so humble yet it is nothing but a slayer in a child’s academic life. Not entirely a child but as well as to adults who have used the best tactics to hide it, in fear of people’s nasty talks of condemnation and criticism That is the main and pivotal reason that has attracted me to just wake up from my sleep in the early hours and just let my ‘thought’ or should I say ‘opinion’ to flow like a river bank found somewhere within this earth. After all, a stitch in time saves nine. According to the information that I have derived from Wikipedia, the general knowledge as emphasized traditionally states that ‘illiteracy’ is the inability to read and write. This has become one of the most common and simple definitions used to define this term.  Surprising as it is I have observed that still most people do not believe that someone can be illiterate. Yes, this is very much possible. Well this is what is taking place in our societies and what is scorching right now. It is just that we people have found it easy to succumb to ignorance because it is much simpler yet it brings about challenges that affect us very badly at the end of the day. As for now, I hope most can be able to relate. I can assure you, more is yet to be unfolded.

Illiteracy from its core roots is caused by lack of education. The basic and formal education which helps the mind of an individual to develop as well as to respond to most of the things taking place around that particular person. As a result, a lack of education will thus lead to our situation here. Why do I say this? If one is not taught how to read and write, how then do we expect for that particular person to be able to identify and utter even simple words. The saddest part that comes along is when people misinterpret it wrongly and just carelessly. They are very much quick to make up their own conclusions into thinking that a person is nothing but dumb and not intelligent enough. This is entirely nothing but clear barbarism. However, the knowledge which I have pertaining this matter also highlights to my understanding that, the inability to read and write in not only from lack of education. An individual can still acquire basic education and still find it perplexing to read and write in some least unknown cases. Taking a definite life application, a Motswana student or any other student in Botswana is expected to complete a twelve year basic education before heading out to tertiary level and it is not a new thing to notice that there are still students who find it a problematic to read and write yet they have been in school for some time. My point here is that, even people who have received formal education may find it difficult to just joint down words or saying them out. Famous and well known scholars have really given their best to cite out several reasons that not only entail causes of illiteracy but its challenges as well. In most remote areas, parents themselves to start with, do not see the importance and vitality of education due to cultural beliefs and practices which I would say that they have become meaningless in the modern times we find ourselves leading now. Such cultural beliefs and practices encourage parents negatively to derive children and even themselves to acquire basic education because they have already perceived it to be useless and insignificant. It is not of any doubt that most parents especially our eldest loving parents are somehow illiterate. Not saying they are to blame or they are at fault but I would say a lot of damage has come out of this. I mean if one could see it from my own perspective, this kind of situation forms a chain that links innocent children who were not suppose to experience this to have no any other choice accessible but to be victims of this deadly master that we definitely know of but little is still done to tackle it. What are people saying in regards to this? Do we sit back and relax to let the high top officials take care of it because we are too engulfed with the dependency syndrome? Still, when are we ever going to put an end on feeding on this so called ‘dependency syndrome’ of ours? Well, self centred people are those that say, “So long I eat, sleep and getting a paycheque monthly, that does not really concern me at all.” I just then wonder how people find it easy to be really good at being selfish. A nasty world we live in, right? Why not at least come up with various ways to make a better place for all of us as well as for generations which are to come? Is that also difficult? 

 Furthermore, in modern times illiteracy is also encouraged by parents who are not comfortable in knowing and believing their children have a difficult time to read and write. That is, they try as much as possible to discount and fail to come to terms that their children are facing quite a hectic time. They simply hide the truth instead of finding ways to help their young ones whilst there is still time. This is mainly because of embarrassment and shame of what people will say. To hide this, they enrol their children in private schools with hopes that a miracle will happen just like that because rumours has it that most private schools are entirely based on making profit and as a result each and every child is to excel whether intelligent or not. I would not view this as a rumour but plain truth and nothing else. I believe that my above statement will not be misinterpreted because surely that is not my intention. Take a moment and view this on my perspective side. Even the Setswana proverb is in accord with my motion as well. “Mmua lebe o bua la gagwe’’. This explains that, each and every person has the right to air out his or her opinion based on a particular matter whether it is debatable or not. Truth is, parents cannot ignore and pretend that everything is okay while it is not. That sort of a child having this kind of problem is meant to be availed with the right attention so as to deal with the matter at hand in a nick of time. Hiding it will obviously not yield good results at all. For now it may seem fine but the past is always going to come and haunt the beholder. Besides, the child is going to experience more hardships and struggle than his or her parents later in life. I suppose and believe that is the last thing a responsible and a loving parent would wish for his or her child. In addition, teachers also should not be blamed nor held accountable if a child is unable to read and write because teachers are meant to teach not to perform unrealistic miracles on the child. This is more of a psychological problem therefore it definitely calls for more than just a teacher to tackle the problem. Parents should just stop denying the truth and hiding behind curtains but should be bold enough like vicious lions to solve the problem for the benefit of their children. Accept the situation and do not sit back and relax but do something worthy. As I continue, illiteracy goes hand in hand with a disability disorder called ‘Dyslexia’. The general definition used explains that, Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. In much simpler terms, this occurs when a child in unable to read. It involves having a trouble in reading comprehension, spelling and writing. Now, the relationship between dyslexia and illiteracy is that a child can be said to be illiterate due to the fact that he or she is suffering from dyslexia. Therefore in most cases, such child is referred to as not intelligent enough thus taken to be entirely illiterate. Indeed early made up conclusions can just lead to false speculations that destroy the future of a child. This is the very same ignorance that I highlighted in the beginning. At least one would notice that I was not beating a dead horse but was only in efforts to emphasize my point of which I believe one can understand now. 

Now as I take my concentration to poverty as one of the causes of illiteracy. Of course, poverty is to be held responsible so as to why some people throughout this world are unable to read and write especially adults. As commonly known, poverty refers to the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs such as food, clothing, shelter and obviously enough adequate money. Some have defined it as the scarcity or the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. In the end, all the definitions absolutely refer to the same thing. Poverty grounds illiteracy in the sense that if there is little or limited necessary resources such as money, food, shelter and clothing then a person will not be able to go to school with the efforts of attaining education. This means that an individual will not even have the money to pay for school fees and paying for other useful resources that they need in their academic endeavour like school uniform which is clothing itself and stationery of which is a necessity as well. As a result, it makes it not easy for such person to even think about going to school because they are faced with this poverty in their lives which derives them from other important aspects in life. Not only that,  most  countries which are hit with extreme poverty or penury like Mozambique, Malawi, Niger and Liberia just to mention a few as stated by research, these countries are the very same ones where most people are found to be illiterate. Why? This is because these countries hit with absolute poverty cannot meet the citizens’ basic needs and thus it egg on high rates of illiteracy to keep on escalating even more.  Now, there are so many challenges that illiterate people experience and face almost in each and every phase of their lives. Sadly, little is being done to deal with such difficulties as I have mentioned earlier on. Some are left with no choice but to submit as well as hide in shame and fear. High chances of lack of employment continue to escalate every now and then. They are forced to not take use of job opportunities which may be available and the unfortunate part that comes along is the fact that, they will find it difficult to earn a living or improve their standard of living for the better thus increasing to the high levels of poverty which are already existing now and which the government is still fighting with endlessly. For first starters, no one wishes to take a risk that may impose a threat to his or her business by hiring someone who is unable to read and write. It would be definitely be absurd and meaningless. Please understand, this is absolutely not acts of stigmatization or discrimination, I am just being frank and hitting the nail on the head in a plain and understandable manner. In the business world, we view that as an unethical code of business conduct. Illiterate people especially student in schools face the pain of being bullied of everyday. They are filled with false knowledge and made to believe that they are not good enough and can never be good in their lives yet that is not true. They are then left with no option but to surrender to the bullies, they tend to be weak and just carelessly live their own lives. Sometimes, some teachers do not fully understand the situation that a child is going through hence not giving them the attention that they deserve. It is really disheartening because this obviously leads to a child academic life to go down the drain. Some end up dropping out of school and not completing their education as they were expected to because of the situation they have. This does not solve anything but increases the poverty rates in a country and one may be left with no choice again but to be engaged in crime related activities with aims of making ends meet.

 I may not be able to lay out or point out all of  the challenges that these people go through but at the end of the day, my question remains thus, what is being done to tackle such issues or are we just focused on our fancy life styles and neglecting poor souls out there? They need saving and to be understood. I do understand that the government has put into this initiative of whereby adults and even old people are now given the chance to go to school and be taught how to read and write. Yes, it is an initiative worth commended and given an applause but is the initiative effective as we speak now? What are other ways has the government of Botswana introduced in order to deal with such issues? Well, benchmarking is always allowed so it is high time we challenge ourselves to see what other countries are doing to deal with such issues of illiteracy. No, we will not be copying but looking for ideas to add onto ours which we already have. Definitely, I am challenging the government of Botswana to do something about this. After all, the constitutional limitation on the powers of the government in Botswana allows me to do so since I am a civil individual and yet a faithful citizen. What the society wants, the society gets yet innocent souls are being cleaned out by this beast. Haunted by the deadly master named illiteracy but there is no team of rescue services that may come forth to avail itself so as to save the day. In the end the tortured cry in agony to say,

 “I cannot read and write but no one seems to care and so I hide behind the mask of illiteracy.

Lisa Bokani Motsu