Literacy for All


The 8th of September marks the International Day of Literacy; since that day in 1966, the eradication of illiteracy cause has become a symbol of inherent human rights and dignity. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ensures that human rights are indivisible; the denial of one right consequently affects other rights. Literacy is not only an intrinsic right and a mean for success throughout life; it is a prelude to people’s ability to practice effectively. It enhances capabilities, develops talents, and broadens perceptions; hence, providing individuals with the motivation to participate in the various activities around them. Usually, the right to literacy implicitly falls under the right to education; fortunately though, literacy is already recognized as a separate right for both children and adults in many international agreements.

Over the years, different and interesting methods have been devised to entice learners to read and write; perhaps the most famous method is phonetics, which entails learning to read by linking the patterns of letters with the sounds within the word. There is also the “See and Say” method, which is based on comic books to nurture the student’s curiosity to discover the text associated to an image. Maybe the most creative method is the audio-visual method; it revolves around the ability of the student to decode words when receiving a picture with a sound, which is an audio image located above the text.

Community research and studies show that children who can read and write before their third grade are most likely to complete their secondary education. Those who are already done with their secondary school have a lower rate of deviation and appearance before the judiciary, their social inclusion and access to decent jobs increase, and they are likely to have children who love education and also finish their secondary education. Thus, the ability to read and write does not only protect existing individuals, but also paves the way for good and productive future generations;

Indeed, illiteracy may deprive us of some of the brightest, smartest, most creative and innovative minds. To achieve a nation's renaissance and advancement, all individuals must be given equal opportunities to demonstrate their talents and innovations in all fairness and transparency. Throughout history, there have been many celebrities, thinkers, and also inventors who have experienced learning difficulties during their childhood. However, with patience, will, and the existence of people in their lives who believed and supported them, they were able to prove themselves and bring their ideas to light. Not only to engage in society as normal individuals, but also to lead people from the dungeons of ignorance to the light of knowledge and innovation.

Among these celebrities was Albert Einstein; the physicist who came up with the theory of relativity. Einstein did not form whole sentences until the age of seven; despite his mathematics skills, he suffered with languages and writing. Moreover, there was Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb; the story of his mother teaching him by herself after he was thrown out of school because of his academic underachievement and permanent fugue state is quite a famous story. In the field of entrepreneurship, there was William Hewlett, the founder of Hewlett-Packard (HP), who had difficulties with reading. There was also the international writer Agatha Christie, who dictated her ideas to someone to write them down for her. In the realm of fantasy, the creative Walt Disney, who had vast imagination in the field of animation, suffered from learning difficulties during his childhood. In sports, the world champion Mohammed Ali Clay, who dazzled the world with his continuous successes, did not have access to basic, easy, and typical education, among many others.

I wonder how many innovators, scientists, or inventors exist now in our homelands suffer and struggle with learning difficulties, or have been completely deprived from their right, awaiting the redemption of their stolen rights and the support and nurturing to overcome those obstacles and follow the path of former intellectuals.


Top image: School Photo. Credit: Freepik.

This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Autumn 2019 Issue.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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