Sunday, February 21, 2010

Illiteracy in Pakistan: Cause and Effect

It’s an age-old saying that “ignorance is bliss.” In Middle-Eastern countries, however, like Pakistan, illiteracy drives the people near what western civilizations would call insanity; the behavior is far less than peaceful. This is largely due to the fact that a huge portion of the population is illiterate. Why does this matter? People who are illiterate take much longer to understand things than literate people and may also have troubles with organizing information and following a line of reasoning. This can quickly lead to violent protests and general actions (2).
Education in Pakistan has never been revered as “top-notch” and has never made top rankings amongst other countries. In 1970, 21 percent of the adult population of Pakistan was literate. Although the rate is improving, with 36 percent literate in 1992, literacy is measured simply as whether or not the person can write and read his or her own name (1). This makes for huge, insurmountable problems in every aspect of life for the citizens and outsiders of Pakistan. Countries with large numbers of illiterate citizens are relatively undeveloped countries and with illiteracy at a high number, it’s often difficult to “get on track.”
Beyond country development, the inability to read can easily deter a person’s logic and fuel hatred. In 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, U.S. troops rushed to defend the allied country. According to *Dave G, a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy NY, and citizen of Pakistan, many Pakistani people did not understand why the United States was involved at all in the war and believed that the country was trying to overtake Kuwait. This, he said, was due to the fact that they could not comprehend the logic behind the strategic defense, because of illiteracy.
The lack of knowledge fostered hatred towards America, and many protests and acts of violence have ensued. In 2002, a car-bomb exploded outside of the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Bus bombings, Dave says, are a very common form of protest.
With high violent activity in Pakistan, it’s difficult to understand why action hasn’t been taken to raise literacy and put a stop to the violence. With a cultural limitation in schooling and education, most students do not ask questions on what they’re taught; they simply do what they’re told and stay within the limits. Prohibition of questioning deters any ordinary Pakistani citizen, literate or not, from posing questions to violent protestors. Dealing and living with near constant violence is considered to be the way of life in Pakistan, and no one contests it.
The Pakistani culture is not the only thing prohibiting change. The protection and security systems are also to blame. Pakistani police make a lot less than the average person in Pakistan. Ironically, the income that they make is made up in bribery and pure corruption. So where does a reformer in Pakistan turn to? It’s hard to say, but only time can tell.

*Name change

1. Country Studies. Pakistan.
2. Target Crime with Literacy. The Problem of Low Literacy in Canada.
3. Country Studies. Pakistan.

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