Reading and Writing for Everyone
|January 25, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Reading and Writing for Everyone
Literacy Program Faces Tough Challenges
This article is being distributed by the Inter Press Service News Agency.
by Abderrahim El Ouali
Morocco on a Slow March to Literacy Abderrahim El Ouali Morocco’s “march towards light” as its literacy programme is called is brightening up as official figures go, but with far too many shady areas still.
Two years after the launch of the programme intended to eradicate illiteracy by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals, officials claim that illiteracy has diminished to 38 percent of the population of 30 million, from 80 percent in 1960 and 48 percent in 1999.
The “march towards light”, the “massiarat al nour” in Arabic, aims to take literacy to a million illiterate people every year. The state aims to reach 570,000 of these, non-governmental organisations another 269,000 and public sector companies 146,000. Private sector companies aim to reach about 15,000 a year.
Impressive numbers, but Abdessamad Hassad, a researcher studying the impact of literacy on democracy and development says the programme is “poor in content and means.”
“What is being shown as a policy to eradicate illiteracy is only really speeches for internal and external consumption,” he told IPS.
Hassad points to indicators other than the official figures. About 700 newspapers and magazines in Morocco have between them a readership of only 300,000, he says.
This indicator is contentious, too. Sixty-eight-year-old Hajja Fatima is now literate thanks to the “massiarat al nour” programme, but she just does not like newspapers.
“I can read and write now,” she told IPS. “This has helped me understand the news on radio and tv. But I do not like newspapers. Politicians do not care about what we say, so I do not care about what they say in newspapers.”
Not everyone has Hajja’s choice. While the figures show 38 percent illiteracy in the population, they point to 68 percent illiteracy among voters – indicating far greater illiteracy among older people.
“Illiteracy is a big hindrance in democracy and development,” Hassad says. “If more than two-thirds of the electorate is illiterate, they are not able to distinguish between the different political parties’ programmes,” he said. “So voters become easy to trick and corrupt. This leads to false elections, false results and false representative institutions.”
The illiteracy is leading to a split between these people and the elite, Hassad said. “Twelve million Moroccans are illiterate. This means they have no access to what the elite produces. Communication between these people and the political elite is limited to electoral campaigns.”
But the political elite are not all literate either. Moroccan law requires that members of parliament and municipality leaders must have at least a primary school certificate. After the last elections in 2002 and 2003, many such certificates presented by winning candidates were found to have been forged.
While such concerns are raised, there is no denying the half full part of the glass — or that it is getting fuller, with or without official support.
Abdelkader Faydi, a 34-year-old electrician who had to leave school because his family could not afford the fee, did not wait for any programme; he simply learnt to read Arabic and French on his own. “Now I can read about electricity, and I’m becoming more skilful every day,” he said.
Much of his technical learning now comes off the Internet. He has used this knowledge to learn to install wire connections for large local electricity networks.
“I have extra sources of income now, and that is a good thing,” he told IPS. “I will carry on learning. I will never stop.”
Hassad says Morocco needs more people like Faydi. “People with such will are rare, but illiteracy must be eradicated, and we should encourage everyone to get involved to fight it,” he said.
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