Categorized | For the love of books

Shocking illiteracy stats

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Alice

UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics released some shocking statistics recently: 793 million adults – most of them girls and women – are illiterate.

I can’t imagine not being able to read.

Kids books

My niece loves books already

The stats also state that another 67 million children of primary school age don’t go to school

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and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out on a right to education.

More than half the adult population of the following 11 countries are illiterate: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. South and West Asia account for more than half (51.8%) of the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21.4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12.8%), the Arab States (7.6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4.6%),

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North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).

The illiteracy and education issue reminds me of interviews and articles I wrote about women’s education in Afghanistan and how shocked I was when I found out the stats for female literacy. 2008 Unicef stats put the adult female literacy rate in Afghanistan at 29% of males; the literacy rate of 15-24 year-old men was 49% which is quite high compared to just 18% for Afghan women (in the same age group).

Should literacy be considered a basic human right?

I think so, as does the Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Isobel Abulhoul, as she told me earlier this year.

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