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Literacy – a lifeline to development

“Gaining literacy will help me to calculate and order for my business.” – Susan, 21 years 

"Gaining literacy will help me to be more successful in my life skills and activities (marketing, sewing, cooking, business)" - Angelina 19 years

If you can read this, count yourself lucky. Globally, one in five people have either no or just basic reading skills.

Over 785 million adults are illiterate worldwide and 98% of illiterate people are concentrated in the developing world. And without the ability to read, some of life’s most essential necessities become far out of reach – it becomes difficult to have a job, to access health information, to support your children’s education, to engage in democracy and community leadership.

So it’s not surprising to find that poverty and burden of disease correlate directly with illiteracy and low literacy. Or that life expectancy is lowest where people cannot read.

This year, kiwis across the country will be taking the Live Below the Line challenge for World Vision to raise money to support a programme that will help bring literacy, and the benefits that this brings, to our neighbours in the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands is home to one of the lowest literacy rates in the Pacific, as well as some of its highest poverty. Approximately 40% of Solomon Islanders are illiterate, and in the province where World Vision’s programme has newly begun, Temotu, 63% of the population cannot read or write.

Improvements in basic education are critical for Temotu, which has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. The effects of illiteracy on the people of Temotu are devastating for their development, including low participation in community leadership, decision-making and social life, limited engagement with government, difficulty supporting children’s education, difficulty engaging in economic activities such as selling produce and banking, and poor self-esteem.

I am very eagerly waiting literacy classes, it is very exciting, I will be first to enrol” – Casper, 72 years

Seventy-two year old Casper Kopu attended primary school for only about one month as a child in the Reef Islands. He can write only his name and nothing else. He can’t read at all. He told us “I am very eagerly waiting literacy classes, it is very exciting, I will be first to enrol. My hope is I will be able to read and write.”

"Learning to read and write will give me confidence to participate in educational activities for my pikinini [children/grandchildren]" - Clement, 50 years

Susan, a twenty-one year old mother wants to learn to read and write so that she can help her children in their schooling and to help calculate and order for her business. Forty-five year old Rose Lopoe shares the same dreams. “Once I can read, I hope to start a business in my community. It will also mean I can help my children with their homework.”

Providing literacy and education has the power to transform the lives of those living in Temotu and the world around them.

Here are some amazing statistics on how basic education, like what we will do with your help in Temotu can achieve:

Education beats poverty: One extra year of schooling increases a person’s earnings by up to 10%. 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.

Education reduces child mortality: a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age five. In Indonesia, child vaccination rates are 19% when mothers have no education and 68% when mothers have at least secondary school education.

Education promotes gender equality: by helping women control how many children they have. In Mali, women with secondary education or higher have an average of three children, while those with no education have an average of seven children.

Education contributes to improved maternal health: women with higher levels of education are most likely to delay and space out pregnancies, and to seek health care and support.

Education helps combat HIV, malaria and other preventable diseases: In addition, it facilitates access to treatment and fights against stigma and discrimination.

“Learning to read and write through the LFL project will help me to become more involved in my community committees.” - Rose, 45 years