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Illiteracy in Egypt
Illiteracy is a huge problem, which face the developing countries and of course some of the developed countries. Who we can call an illiterate? An illiterate is a person who is unable to read or write. The rate of illiteracy is high in Egypt especially for women. The rate of illiteracy in Egypt in 2002 is approximately 34.2, while 45.4 percent is women. According to Arab Human Development Report; the illiteracy in the Arab world has reached 65 million, two thirds of them women. The illiteracy problem is caused by many things; one of the causes is poverty and another one is the lack of education of the parents. For example poverty; people want their children to learn, but can not afford enough money to make that dream come true. For the poor parents, it is a dream to make his children enter a school, because he wants his son to achieve something he could not do. This is a reason why illiteracy is high in the rural areas in Egypt. This is not only in rural areas, but also in big cities in Cairo and the main reason for that is poverty; people cannot afford money to pay for their children school expenses, so they do not enter school and of course they become illiterate. This essay will first demonstrate the causes behind illiteracy and will try to find solutions for this problem.
There are a number of causes behind the increased rate of illiteracy in Egypt, one of which is family pressure on women specifically from husbands, most of the husbands do not want their wife's to learn, specially the illiterate husbands. In the rural areas it is nearly impossible to convince the husband to attach his wife to a learning system. The husband is convinced that his wife has no need to learn. She only needs to serve her house, so what is the need of learning. Most of the girls wants to learn, but as they grow this feeling vanishes with time. Therefore in most of the cases the illiterate husband is the cause for the illiteracy of his daughter and wife. Another aspect of the problem is that husbands do not want to learn, they say why to learn, while I got my wife and my farm to look after, learning is not important. Some people at first are convinced to join educational system, but after some time they leave. Because they are bored, or they do not understand what they were taught or the more advanced group of them leaves after learning how to read and write.” To convince people of the importance of staying with classes is one of the toughest obstacles we face “(Rashed, 2002, issue no. 604).
There is another problem which is the most of the people leaves after they are able to read and write, and he or she think that this is enough, but this is a problem, because if he or she did not exercise a lot he will forget what he learned and that is the ability to read and write. You can teach people how to read and write in a nine-month program, but according to a recently conducted field study by WSA, if people stop their education at that point, there is a big chance they will forget what they have been taught in a period ranging from six to 12 months (Rashed, 2002, issue no. 604).
Some of the illiterate people are wealthy, they does not see a reason for learning, as they demonstrate it “what did the educated people get?' This is a result of the socioeconomic problems in the country” (Abdoun, 2009, Daily News Egypt). That kind of people is nearly impossible to convince, because he thinks that he got enough money, so he think why do I need to learn? I got enough money for my self and my children. But what he does not know that his children will suffer after he dies. Because of course he prevents his children from learning. If he has a son from he make him works with him and if he has a daughter he will make her wait for marriage. In large cities like Egypt most people are poor; maybe due to the low income. People do not find money to spend on their children to learn. Nowadays in high school every student should take a lesson after school to understand the subject, because he did not understand what he was taught in school. Most of the parent can not afford to pay for that lesson so the student fail and leaves the school.
Illiteracy has many negative effects, not only on the person himself, but also for his own country; first of all, if a country has a high illiteracy rate, it will be very hard for this country to develop, because the countries develop with its people, not with itself. If people have knowledge they can do anything like gain a lot of money, invent new things, which leads to the development of their country. Second, illiteracy make people naïve easy to trick, because if you ask a question to an illiterate person and he does not know the answer, anything you say he will believe it, so he can be trick because of his illiteracy. Finally, illiterate people can not be a well known person Can an illiterate person be a president for example? Of course not, because he does not have any information to give or to convince people with.
Although there are many solutions to eradicate illiteracy, not many of them work. Why is that? Because only a small group of people accept to learn, while the other leaves after a small period or after they learned basic concept, like reading and writing and those are partially illiterate. Illiteracy eradication programs have spread in Egypt to help illiterate people, but not all of it has been successful. One of these programs tries to employ young graduates and teach them, how to teach illiterate people. But the program is not that successful, why? Because of many reasons; first the graduates are young so they lack training, of course they will be trained, but they do not have the experience of an old teacher on how to teach, not only teach, but teach and deal with an illiterate person. Most of the graduated students look for money and jobs but they did not find what they desired, so they look for any kind of job to get money. "After graduating, I didn't find a job. I signed up for the 'Century Project' when I found out it paid LE150 a month."(Nafie, 2003, Issue No. 654).thus most of the graduated student look for just work, so they might not concentrate on the people they are teaching, of course they take courses on how to deal with the illiterate people, but that might not be enough. Because experience is the key to make people learn and make them have a desire in learning. "I don't think any of the volunteers really believe in the cause. Most of us are doing it just because we need the money." (Nafie, 2003, Issue No. 654).as one of the volunteers mentioned, if they did not believe in the cause, will they really succeed in what they are doing? One main goal the person whose job is to eradicate the illiteracy should have, this goal is that he really wants to eradicate illiteracy, not just take it as a job.
Another main problem is the eradicating programs itself. Maybe it does not suit that illiterate person himself; maybe he can not understand from the person that is teaching him, maybe the time is not suitable for him. It is not just provide the people with classes then leave them. It is providing people with classes and monitors them see what they need, are they comfortable with the way they learn, do they need anything else. The main idea is to motivate and encourage them and make them fell comfortable and make the classes and the schedules suitable for everyone. If this is achieved they will gain a lot from what they are learning. “An important area is the development of flexible programs which suit different learners' needs and interests, meaning flexible schedules and convenient locations” (Abdoun, 2008, Daily News Egypt).
There are other ways of eradicating illiteracy that is claimed to work; one of them is by advertising and providing lessons through television.” Utilization of the television channels and broadcasting as a teaching aid for distance education, through the introduction of literacy lessons and educational drama, thus covering all governorates at various periods to enable illiterates follow them regardless of time or place” (UNESCO Egypt report 1).This is good and a new way of learning, but the main question is does most the illiterates have television and if they have, do they have the time to watch literacy lessons on it? Of course not, because most of the illiterate parts in Egypt are concentrated in the rural areas, most of these people are concerned with their farms and work. Moreover most of these people will not want to see these programs on the television. They will say why I should waste my time on watching some program I do not even understand. The rural areas in Egypt do not care so much about technology some of them might still be using radios and do not even have a television or even care to have one. They are more concerned with their work, families and their own problems. To make a program like that work it needs awareness, how to know which time this program is aired and how to understand from it. Because when an illiterate person starts to learn, especially old people (people above the age of 30) they find most of the course or the program very hard to understand, so they start to fear what is coming and they ask themselves how I am going to understand the complex parts, when I can not even understand the easy part. Many ways of eradicating illiteracy had failed, because people do not have their expectations meet.
This paragraph will provide few solutions, from all the information gathered about how to eradicate illiteracy. First of all, women is not like men they are easily convinced, if someone sit with them and talk and understand their problem, they might provide a solution for them.The best suited for this mission is one who is not working for money, but the one whose gladly dedicating his life to solve this problem, who believes that he or she can solve it if he or she tries. These descriptions mostly applied on female instructors; because they are enthusiastic and realistic about their work. According to one of the volunteers she said “we will make the project succeed. As long as there are a few like us, who are keen on teaching those in need, a lot of people will be able to overcome illiteracy." (Nafie, 2003, Issue No. 654).Other are men volunteer for the illiteracy eradicating program, which this essay explained some of the works for money and the others work because they did not find a job. These kinds of people must be removed and replaced with people such as these women who do not work for money; they work to educate illiterate people. Another one of the female volunteers said “the money was not a motivational factor.”What can you do with LE150 these days anyway?" she asked. Those who were doing it for the money, she said, "don't deserve the job"” (Nafie, 2003, Issue No. 654).Many women do not work for money, so they are the best candidates for the jobs. The question now how to convince husbands; by telling and showing him examples of literate people and demonstrate what his wife will be if she is literate, how she will understand him and her children better. That also applies for him, what he will be after he is a literate person how it will help him with his work and also make him a better person. Fighting illiteracy is not to make people learn how to read and write, it is a long way that involves convincing the illiterate women to go on with studying in the program, and convince the husbands about the essential of letting their wives continue their education.
One big way of illiteracy eradicating is the family support. If the family is supportive enough the illiterate member of this family will continue to learn, not just stop by learning how to read and write and if they continue to support this illiterate member in their family he becomes a fully literate person, it means that he will have a degree. For the wealthy people who are illiterate they should understand if they make their children learn that should make things easy for him. His son will be able to take after his father job and even expand it. Because he learned in details how this job works. In the end the illiteracy eradicating process depends on the instructors and how can they convince and encourage people to learn.
To sum up , illiteracy is a huge problem which is facing Egypt, but not only Egypt, the whole world is facing that problem. There are many problems which are causing illiteracy in Egypt, one of them is family pressure on women specifically from husbands, another one is the husband themselves don't want to learn and there is the rich illiterate people who do not care about learning. The effect of illiteracy is huge, a country with huge rate of illiteracy will not be developed country and illiteracy makes people naïve easy to trick. The illiterate person will be as he is until he dies without doing anything for himself or his country. There is some solutions that did not work for eradicating illiteracy, for example; people that only work for money not to eradicate illiteracy they are not dedicated to their job, so they will teach without care about the person in front of them. Also there is the television lesson for illiterate people, which illiterate people might not understand it, another thing the government provides programs for eradicating illiteracy that do not suit all the illiterate people. Finally, there are some solutions for eradicating illiteracy. For women they are easily convinced, if someone understands their thought and what they need they can easily be convinced with the idea of learning. For the husbands, they must see an example of literate husband, to convince them what they or their family will become if they become literate. The illiteracy eradicating process depends on the instructors and how can they convince and encourage people to learn.
Rashed, Dina (2002), Life choices, Al Ahram weekly Retrieved (25/12/2009) from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2002/604/fe2.htm
Abdoun, Safaa (2008), Illiteracy eradication programs struggle with the numbers, daily news Egypt Retrieved (25/12/2009) from http://www.dailystaregypt.com/printerfriendly.aspx?ArticleID=18209
Abdoun, Safaa (2009), Egypt's illiteracy rate drops slightly to 26 pct, daily news Egypt Retrieved (25/12/2009) from http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=25852
Nafie, Reem (2003), Illiteracy revisited, Al Ahram weekly Retrieved (26/12/2009) from http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/654/eg2.htm
UNESCO (2000), country reports Retrieved (26/12/2009) from http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/countryreports/egypt/rapport_1_2.htm