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Fighting illiteracy in rural areas to ease access to quality education


The UN estimates that there are 190 million illiterate people in Africa, and that this number stands in the way of the right to quality education advocated by international conventions and institutions. The fact that this category of people lacks basic skills and knowledge to the extent that they cannot write, read or count indicates the need for education in Africa. The situation is more alarming in rural areas. 

Rural illiteracy, an obstacle to education 

In Cameroon, for example, only 13.4% of people living in the city are illiterate, while the rate is about 48.3% in rural areas, according to the third General Census of Population and Housing. Several factors may explain these disparities, including isolation and distance from the nearest school, rural and pastoral work, poverty, etc. The fact remains that illiteracy is not without impact on the right to quality education of individuals. 

This is all the more plausible when one wonders how to promote such a right when African villages and countryside are crowded with illiterates. Indeed, when the right to education as such is not implemented, the right to quality education seems to become a luxury, a source of reinforcement of social inequalities. This is why the experts believe that African states and their many national and international partners must create the conditions for the enjoyment of the right to quality education. 

Solutions to rural illiteracy

Actions could consist of strengthening implementation and financing strategies for the schooling of young people, girls and adults in rural areas; optimising the adaptation of educational provision to the way of life and reducing the educational costs of villagers. Such an inter-African emergency plan defined in time and space could help to establish conditions for the effective and equal enjoyment of the right to quality education in Africa. If Mandela believed that education is a powerful weapon for change and progress, let us also believe that there is a need to arm our fellow citizens in rural Africa to effectively meet the challenge of development.


While it is no longer necessary to demonstrate that there is a link between the illiteracy rate and the level of development, we must agree that access to quality education is dangerously threatened by the existence of “pockets” of illiteracy in African villages. We must get rid of these pockets in order to open the way to an education that will bring all the hopes of the continent. This is largely possible. All that is needed is a dose of political will.


Teweche Alphonse


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