Africa: are we ‘ill-literates’ or ‘illiterates’?

Sat, 27 Apr 2013 Source: Adzokpe, Jonathan

The surge in the number of private and public educational institutions in Ghana and the rest of Africa points to only one fact; that the rate of illiteracy is reducing by the day. In fact the numbers are becoming so scary that the number of jobs provided every year don’t suffice for the number of graduates churned out.

In this article, my attention is not on the jobless situations we’re plagued with even though that’s a very important subject. That could do for another time. My primary focus is on the seemingly large number of ‘literate’ Africans who can read and write yet ‘refuse’ to do so in order to broaden their horizon.

Over the years, I have seen many people who never attempt reading anything after school. Below is a statistics by the Jenkins Group, a private publishing service provider (www.JenkinsGroupInc.com) that will blow your mind;

• 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

• 42 per cent of college graduates never read another book after college.

• 57 per cent of new books are not read to completion.

One of the beliefs I hold strongly as being a key contributor to America becoming the most powerful nation in the world is not that they’re any exceptional breed of humans; it is their penchant to gain knowledge outside of the four walls of a classroom.

The personal development industry commands over hundreds of millions of U.S. Dollars annually. This tells of how hungry they are for relevant information and knowledge. They apply the sound principles from these books to solve their challenges – in business, economy, relationship et al.

What about Africa? We remain rusted after school. We say good bye to our books after our last exam in school. We see reading as punishment. But do I blame us? Partly not! I remember some of my teachers in primary school ‘punishing’ us to read when we made noise during a free period. We hated it because it was a way of discouraging us from talking. Coming from such background, we’ve not been able to appreciate the positive impact of reading.

We wish to speed up our developmental agenda. We have many targets we’ve laid for ourselves. While some say vision 2015, others claim vision 2020. But whichever way it is, tell me, which informed driver would ever want to travel to a destination with a certain level of speed without knowledge of the road he’s to travel on or even the requirements expected of him for the journey?

Our inability to read to obtain knowledge with which to solve our lingering problems is a key factor for our becoming stagnant. And as we know, water that gets stagnant for a while begins to stink. As a people, our knowledge base has remained stagnant and begins to stink. We’re attempting to solve 21st century problems with methods employed during the era Before Christ (BC). And in all of these, we keep complaining why we’re under-developed.

Development never comes to a stagnant, retrogressive group of people. Progress and development come to a people who are progressive in knowledge and in their thinking.

Even though we can read and write, we’re now either ‘ill-literates’ or ‘illiterates’. This is what Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist says about 21st century illiteracy; “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Every journey of a thousand mile, they say, begins with a step. I want to implore you to begin to read just a paragraph of a book a day. Before long, you’ll be reading volumes of books that will not only make you a leader in your field, but make you relevant for the 21st century Africa.

Don’t be an ‘illiterate’ or worse of all, an ‘ill-literate’.


This article was written by;

Jonathan Adzokpe,

Host of Motivational Arena,

A weekend motivational radio talk show

On Nash Radio every Saturday from

11:00 to 12:00 GMT live at www.radionash.com

Columnist: Adzokpe, Jonathan