Monday, August 18, 2008

Literacy in Nicaragua

Rivas Public Library

Officially, the literacy rate is 77% among people of all ages, 84% for males between 15 and 24 and 89% for females between 15 and 24 here in Nicaragua (some other pages have lower estimates by about 10%).

I've spoken with many children who work in the market, and 100% of them go to public schools.

After the Sandinista revolution in the late 70's there were expansive literacy programs to teach communities of illiterate adults until the costs couldn't be borne with the war against the Contras who had the support of the US.

With all that, you would think that Nicaragua was on track to become a well educated country who would be able to change their own destiny. But on the ground, things seem a little different.

Maybe someone can read, but can they really understand what they're reading? Enough to make an informed decision? That's a big leap from literacy, but it is what would be needed to control one's own destiny.

There are very few books in the library, and other than bookstores online in Spain (which is a super expensive way to go), I've had a tough time finding good books in Spanish. Not that they don't exist, it's just they seem to always be out of print.

How do we expect a nation to control it's own destiny if it doesn't choose to read? Some people read newspapers. But all in all, there's some ability to analyze, critique and understand bias that is simply much more difficult to attain when no one reads.

I grew up in a family that reads a ton (even though my father passionately hated reading as a child and teenager). But the adults here don't really read.

So apart from family, how do people learn to love reading?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

It reminds me of this quote from Ray Brabury (that ironically Laura Bush has used in some speeches!): "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."