‘Illiteracy as a hindrance to development.’

By Kingsley Anyata. Kingsley, 19, lives in Abakaliki, Nigeria. He studies at the Ebonyi State University. Please read and add your thoughts and comments below.


Education is the bedrock of every society. It is a foundation on which this structure called society is laid. Without a foundation no structure will ever stand. A society standing or built on illiteracy will always topple over. When it crashes, rebuilding it takes much longer than it would have taken in just making education the bedrock of the society. Most of the first world countries could be said to have evidently made education a priority. This has led to the geometrical growth, both in economy and other aspects that they are currently experiencing. This lucidly explains it when I say that education is vital to a nation. For instance, the just concluded April presidential election that took place in Nigeria had a large turnout of cancelled votes. About 1.2million presidential votes were cancelled due to lack of education, probably being unable to learn, unlearn and relearn. Since at most polling booths, the procedure to follow or the actual process was described and demonstrated in their familiar regional languages. It is a thing of pity that in most polling booths which I experienced the casting of votes, most people who were doing the wrong thing were the young ones. Imagine a situation where the upcoming or anticipated generations are unable to learn and put into practice simple instructions given to them. As well they were unable to know the things to learn and relearn. Hence, they just did it anyhow and this led to waste of resources (materials) used for the election. Since the young ones are highly affected, that simply means that problem locks around if this trend is not reversed as soon as possible.

I would like to recognize a statement made by Alvin Toffler in my bid to explain what it means to be educated. He said that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” He must have thought very well to have come up with such a wonderful self explanatory statement of what education entails. Any body who desires to, could read and write, but not everybody can go through the process of learning, unlearning and relearning. It takes wisdom for someone to learn, unlearn and relearn.

To learn means to gain knowledge or skill by studying, from experience, from being taught etc. Your ability to learn, unlearn and relearn gives you the opportunity to know the supposed things, sieve out the unsupposed ones and enhance the supposed ones into better supposed options. This ability gives you an edge over just being able to read and write. Reading just entails trying to or pronouncing letters coined together to get words. Writing is the act of putting down those words formed from the letters of the alphabet. It is quite true that reading and writing are the basics and vital steps towards a better learning, unlearning and relearning, but it takes wisdom for one to learn.

When I have the knowledge of how to teach, that means that I have learnt how to teach. I would not just read a textbook to my students or write what I see in a textbook because I can read and write. I will have to explain both from the knowledge I have and from my experiences in connection with the topic of discussion.

If one can just read and write without learning, unlearning and relearning, the person becomes a hindrance or nuisance wherever the person is. You will be termed an intelligent fool. Learning, unlearning and relearning helps you explain, even if not in details, what you have read or written.

There was a case in which a man was brought to deliver a lecture to people who were novice in a particular field. He started and ended the lecture by just reading to the audience without even making effort to drive home what he had read. After the lecture, the percentage that still remained novice was a hundred percent (100%). Who then do you think is the illiterate? The man who delivered the lecture of course. He was unable to achieve the concept for inviting him to deliver the lecture because he could only read and write. He actually hindered those people from learning things about that particular field. Looking at it from different perspective, if the man had been able to read, write, learn, unlearn and relearn, he would have explained his lecture and would have achieved if not hundred percent (100%) success, at least seventy-five percent (75%) success, which is a good attempt.

Therefore I am not mistaken, if I agree with Alvin Toffler that illiteracy is not only being unable to read and write.

I had aforementioned that education is the bedrock of every society. Education is the stepping stone for development. Without education (being able to read, write, learn, unlearn and relearn), a country/nation has nothing to do with development. For instance, if you are a person that only thinks in one direction without looking back or diverting to sides. You will definitely remain as you are. Thus, the same applies to a society without education.

Education is as important as life itself. The ability to learn, unlearn and relearn has led to great technological advancement in many fields which helps man to live happily on earth.

Food production has been improved, health service care intensified, communication broadened, structural facilities set in place and industries set up. Therefore the three basic needs (shelter, clothing and food) of human have been conquered by being able to learn, unlearn and relearn.

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