At a glance:
Population: 57,725,600 (2018)
Official Languages: 11 official languages including isiZulu (24.7%), isiXhosa (15.6%), and Afrikaans (12.1%)
Religion: Christian (86%), Traditional (5.4%), and Muslim (1.9%)
Fertility Rate: 2.26 births per woman (2018)
HIV/AIDs Prevalence Rate: 18.8% (2017)
Life Expectancy: 63 years (2017)
Image Source: Wikipedia
Literacy Rate: 94.4% (2015)
Currency: South African Rand
Form of Government: Parliamentary Republic
Natural Resources: gold, nickel, diamonds, platinum, copper, coal, iron ore, natural gas, and salt
Exports: gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
South Africa has a diversity of geographical features with low-lying coastal areas, mountains in the eastern/northeastern section of the country, and the Kalahari desert in the north. The Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. The Orange River is South Africa’s longest, beginning in Lesotho, flowing westward, and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
Bordering South Africa are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. South Africa also completely encircles the tiny country of Lesotho. (4)
Early inhabitants of the southern tip of the African continent were Bantu-speaking tribes who settled in the northern areas of what would one day be called South Africa. These tribes gradually moved south towards the coastline. (5)
Over many centuries South Africa became an amalgamation of many different peoples. This took place as a result of immigration, colonization, and the importation of slaves. It was in 1652 that the first European settlers arrived. Their settlement came to be known as Cape Town. The Dutch East India Company was formed to supply passing ships with fresh produce. Dutch farms spread, and after the colony was established, brought in slaves from East Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies. (2)
Other Europeans were not far behind. The Huguenots (French Protestant refugees) arrived in 1688, followed by groups from Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain. Not surprisingly, conflict erupted between the colonists and the indigenous peoples beginning in the 1770s. (3)
In the 1820s, a famous Zulu king and warrior named Shaka led a series of incursions into the territory of other tribes. This long and bloody war left space for the Dutch and British colonists to gain control. In the mid-1800s the Dutch began moving farther into the interior and came to rule two landlocked republics called Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boers (farmers) practiced Calvinism and developed the language of Afrikaans. In 1886 with the discovery of a major goldfield, the English, in a desire to maintain mining rights for English immigrants, went to war with the Dutch in what became known as the Anglo-Boer wars. (2)
It is ironic that in a place that abolished slavery in 1838, a system based on white power became legendary around the world. In 1910 the Union of South Africa ( a white union) was created followed by the 1912 founding of the African National Congress(ANC). The seed was planted. In 1948 the pro-Afrikaner National Party came to power with the idea of Apartheid. By 1961 residential segregation was enforced with blacks forcibly removed from white areas. When the ANC protested, leaders, including the famous Nelson Mandela, were thrown in jail. Resistance continued for many years, with international support, until Apartheid fell and a democratic election was finally held in 1994. After being released from prison, Mandela served as president of South Africa for five years. (2)
The ANC has been ruling South Africa since 1994. During this time, the poverty level has fallen from 33.8% in 1996 to 16.9% in 2008. Unemployment continues to pose a challenge with a rate of 27.2% in 2018. South Africa has also struggled with the HIV/AIDs epidemic. (7)
With this complex history comes an equally rich culture. This multi-ethnic nation has a cacophony of voices and 11 official languages. South Africans also enjoy many forms of music. One form that emerged in the 1990s with the fall of Apartheid was Kwaito, a fusion of old and contemporary African beats, some describe as a variant of hip hop. (5)
Dance is popular in South Africa, too. Gumboot is a style of dance which originated in the gold mines and is unique to South Africa. The dancers wear boots and rhythmically stomp and clap. Because talking was prohibited in the mines, stomping was a means of communicating. Zulu dances are also common, the dancers dressed as warriors in traditional garb. (5)
Another favorite pastime for South Africans is participating in and watching sports. Their favorites are rugby, cricket, and soccer.
As in any culture, South African cuisine is reflective of their geography and history. In fact, their food is sometimes referred to as “rainbow cuisine” because of the array of food from many different cultures. Throughout most of the country, though, the menu of a South African is based on meat and maize. (Nearly half of arable land is planted with maize.) A few favorites include biltong, a dried salted meat; bobotie, a version of shepherd's pie; and boerewors, a hand-made farm sausage. One traditional dish considered a delicacy in the northern part of the country ( and unique to many other cultures) is mopane worms, caterpillars that live on mopane trees. The worms are dried and then fried, grilled or cooked in a stew. Mopane worms are still served as hors d’oeuvres at restaurants. (6)
On a wall in our pediatric dentist’s office is a patchwork of photographs, each capturing the smiling round face of the practice’s newest patients as they sit in the dentist’s chair for their first appointment. Some look as if they are barely out of the crib. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children should visit a dentist when a first tooth appears and no later than the first birthday. This begins a lifetime of biannual appointments to prevent cavities, ensure a proper level of fluoride treatment, and correct or prevent other issues and diseases.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
This diligence in oral health care is in stark contrast to 70% of the world’s population which has no access to basic oral care. (2) Fewer than 500 dentists practice in Tanzania, a country of over 45 million people. (4) Dentists in Tanzanian rural areas are particularly difficult to find. With only one dentist per 400,000 people, few, if any receive dental care.
Urban areas are a bit better off, but many still lack basic care. In a 2007 survey of the oral health behavior of 310 twelve-year-olds in Dar-es-Salaam, 76% had never visited a dentist. The students did, however, appear to be somewhat educated on oral health with 71% recognizing that sugary snacks and drinks are a main cause of cavities. In addition, 92% brushed their teeth once per day, and 71% used toothpaste. (1)
When Tanzanians are able to access dental care, the visit is often corrective rather than preventive. One of the common procedures is tooth extraction. Teeth that have become diseased or rotted need to be removed to avoid the spread of infection. (3) Rural Tanzanians on average suffer with tooth pain for two years before remedying the problem. They will then often pull the teeth themselves or pay a local witch doctor to do it. (2)
Oral health has both a direct and indirect impact on children and their ability to succeed in school. The mouth is an entry point for infections which can spread throughout the body. Chronic oral infection can lead to many other issues including heart and lung disease, stroke, low birth weight and premature birth. Poor oral health and accompanying issues can lead to lost days of school. Tooth pain alone might keep a student home from school or unable to focus while in school.
While poor diet and nutrition can certainly lead to tooth pain or tooth loss because of decay, the inverse is also true. Tooth pain or loss might prevent a child from getting proper nutrition. Poor nutrition then impacts a student’s ability to learn. A student may lose the ability to concentrate, and behavioral problems may emerge.
Untreated cavities can also impact a child’s psychological well being and social connectedness. A child’s self image and confidence can be damaged. In addition, with pain or tooth loss, communication skills might be hindered.
During a 2012 mission trip, dental professionals and students from the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health experienced first hand how a lack of oral health care can impact a child’s self image. The group traveled to a rural Tanzanian school and orphanage in Moshi, Tanzania. In addition to treating cavities and extracting teeth, the dentists also treated a condition called Fluorosis which results from too much fluoride in a child’s diet. The condition leads to discoloration or spots on the enamel. The children were given cosmetic treatment, and the dentists were rewarded with newly found smiles. (4)
Shedrack Asenga, a former student at Saving Grace School
Shedrack, a student at Saving Grace School, also epitomizes the problem. At seven years old, he is now one of the oldest students, but when he arrived a few years ago, he suffered from Rickets, a softening of the bones due to malnutrition. Secondary complications included knock knees and missing front teeth. Shedrack was embarrassed by his missing teeth, so he kept his mouth closed whenever possible, never smiling. He was withdrawn and didn’t participate in class activities. With surgery for his knocked knees and better and consistent nutrition at school, Shedrack has grown into a happier and healthier boy. His teeth have grown in, he has improved academically, and he smiles! For more details on Shedrack, read another of our blog posts: https://www.brighter-tz-fund.org/Blog/5275457
The celebration of International Day of Education is in its infancy. January 24, 2019 marks the first celebration. However, the day brings awareness to very grown up problems. Poverty holds hands with low educational outcomes; girls struggle to achieve the same academic attainment as boys; and even as more children enter school, quality is uneven.
Challenges abound across continents and in our own backyard. Let’s take a look at global struggles first.
A staggering 262 million children under the age of 18 are not attending school. Among the children who are attending, 617 million cannot read or do basic math. (1) Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the areas with the poorest rate of both attendance and achievement. Only 40% of girls complete lower secondary school.
Providing education to all children, and to all children on a level playing field, is critical to eradicating poverty. Among the positive outcomes an educated populace will bring are improved health outcomes, an increase in peaceful and resilient societies, gender equality, progress in environmental sustainability, and a decrease in hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance. Education truly is the foundation to so many other critical issues.
In initiating this day of awareness, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated: “Let us prioritize education as a public good; support it with cooperation, partnerships and funding; and recognize that leaving no one behind starts with education.”
Leaving no one behind has its challenges in the United States as well as developing countries such as Tanzania and others in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of those challenges is funding. In 2018, teacher strikes, protests and walk outs dominated the news. Teachers are demanding better pay, working conditions and benefits. Spending per pupil remains below pre-recession levels. (2) Poor students take the brunt of the cuts. Typically, they wind up in the schools with the lowest funding, oldest buildings, and most inexperienced teachers.
Photo Credit: Rawpixel on Unsplash
Stress among teachers and students is also a challenge we must confront. Talk to any pediatrician or school counselor and they will tell you that anxiety and depression are on the rise for students. Teachers, too, are feeling the stress. With support services being cut, their job responsibilities being increased, and low wages causing financial insecurity, anxiety is high among faculty members.
Chronic absenteeism is another problem endemic to U.S. schools, particularly in the inner cities. During the 2015-16 school year eight million students missed more than three weeks of school. (2)
Finally, an issue that has been investigated over the past few years and continues to be a big issue impacting lower-income students is churn. Simply put, churn is student movement from one school to another. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that an astounding one in four, or 22,000 Milwaukee Public Schools students, switched schools during the 2017-18 school year. (4) With this mobility comes academic struggle, behavioral problems, and an increased risk of dropping out.
Photo Credit: Ben White / Unsplash
One of the biggest reasons for churn is families moving, being evicted or becoming homeless. Since 2000 rent prices have risen while household income has decreased. The result is home insecurity for many, with children getting left behind academically.
The International Day of Education makes us aware of challenges at home and away in the hopes that we put our heads together and work for solutions.
I will give you the good news first. For the first time ever, the majority of the world is not living in poverty. Just over 50% of the world’s population has now inched into middle class or wealthy status. That’s 3.8 billion people. (2) Actually, this isn’t good news. This is great news.
Now for the bad news. We still have just under 50% of the world’s population living in poverty. Further, the rate of decline the world has seen in the number of people living in extreme poverty has slowed. (2)
The difference between moderate and extreme poverty is an important distinction to make. Moderate poverty is defined by the World Bank as an individual living on just $3.10 per day. Extreme poverty is defined as living on just $1.90 per day. Those in extreme poverty are simply fighting for daily survival. In October, 2018, the World Bank made a preliminary forecast that extreme poverty in 2018 would decline to 8.6% of the global population. That is down from 10% in 2015 and down from 36% in 1990. (3) By any measure, great strides have been made to reduce global poverty over the past several decades.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim agrees. He stated: “Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest achievements of our time.” (3)
Still, the fear is that if progress continues to slow, the world will not meet the 2030 sustainable development goal of reducing extreme poverty to no more than 3% of the global population. Predictions are that extreme poverty will increasingly be concentrated in a small group of countries, most located in Sub-Saharan Africa. (3)
The reduction of extreme poverty globally has taken place in shifts. First, the world saw a drastic reduction in China. Next, came India. Now, the world’s eyes are turning towards Africa, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes should be the priority over the next several decades. (1)
Why the concentration of extreme poverty in Africa? One explanation is population growth. If it stays on its current track, the continent of Africa is expected to double its current population by 2050. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has predicted that by this same year, nearly 90% of global poverty will be concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa. (1)
Because almost 60% of the population on the continent of Africa is currently under the age of 25 (compared to 35% in the U.S. and 27% in Europe), the foundation aims to put their money and efforts in the young, focusing on health and education. (1)
Across the globe, the Number of Children and Adolescents Not Reaching a Minimum Proficiency in Reading
In their 2018 Goalkeepers Report, Bill and Melinda Gates said: “The conclusion is clear: to continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest growing, poorest countries….This means investing in young people.” (1)
In Tanzania, one investment is at Saving Grace School which currently serves 72 preschool age impoverished children who otherwise would not have access to an education. Brighter Tanzania Foundation aims to use Saving Grace as a blueprint to build other schools throughout Tanzania. In so doing, BTF will continue to serve those suffering from extreme poverty by providing a foundation for communities through strong education.
Without a doubt, Saving Grace School (and Brighter Tanzania Foundation) are at ground zero for battling poverty.
It’s that time of year. For many of us in the U.S. December means busyness and festivity, whether it’s celebrating Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Christmas. The season may include shopping and spending more time with family and friends, and it definitely means cooking!
Tanzanian Christians are probably cooking up a feast of their own this month. Dishes one might expect to see on a Tanzanian Christmas table include pilau, a rice dish with lots of spice; a chicken, red meat or seafood dish often cooked in coconut; and chai tea.
While one-third of the Tanzanian population practices Christianity, another one-third practices Islam. (2) A Muslim holiday marked by a feast comes a little earlier in the year - Eid al-Fitr, which ends a month of sunrise to sunset fasting. The dishes on this feast table might include plantains; fish; dates; and ugali, a cornmeal-based dish often served with a sauce. Ugali is a staple throughout Africa although it goes by different names depending on the region. (2)
Interested in learning more about East African cuisine? African Eats, An Introduction to African Cooking might be a great addition to your cookbook collection or as a gift for someone else in your life. Written by Jane Leuchter, Felicia McKenzie and Emma Hill of Brighter Tanzania Foundation, the book is a collection of mostly Tanzanian and Kenyan recipes with a sprinkling of recipes from other regions on the continent. It includes recipes of both traditional and modern dishes, and the recipes are accompanied by a bit of history.
For example, readers will learn that the migrations of different peoples into the region has influenced the East African culture of food. As noted in the book, about 1,000 years ago, merchants from the Middle East began settling along the Swahili coast, thus incorporating many of their spices in the diet of Tanzanians and Kenyans. Indians have also migrated to East Africa, and it is from their culture that chapati, a flour-based flat bread, became a common breakfast in Tanzania. (3)
The cook book’s authors begin with a summary of the East African diet: “East African dishes tend to be simple, centered around a few ingredients, with bold, assertive flavors, thanks to fresh ingredients and complex spice blends.” Its collection of recipes are organized in four sections: breakfast, entrees, sides, and drinks/desserts. Be aware: each section is chocked full of vibrant photography that will wet your palate. African Eats is available on Ebook for $9.99 or soft cover for $39.99 and can be purchased at http://www.blurb.com/b/7723794-african-eats.
As you plan your holiday feast, get comfortable with a cup of chai or a mbege (banana beer) and browse African Eats. You may just add some African dishes to your menu this year!
Wonder why this blog post is dressed in blue? Today is Universal Children’s Day 2018. In honor of kids around the globe and in solidarity with other celebrants, we decided to #GoBlue.
Many will wear blue. Some global landmarks will be bathed in blue. Others will share wishes of blueness on social media. Google will add a special doodle in its search engines around the world. (1) What does it all mean? In choosing this theme for 2018, its creators are trying to raise awareness to the plight of children in need - of food, of education, of protection, of love.
Children everywhere have a right to play. Photo Credit: Robert Collins
While children in many countries continue to enjoy a high standard of living, others struggle just to survive. It was on this date in 1989 that the United Nations adopted the Conventions on the Rights of the Child. Among these human rights are the right to life, health, education, to play, family life, protection from violence and discrimination and the right to have their views heard. (1)
Who is most at risk for having these rights violated? In considering that, let’s take a look at one corner of the world - Tanzania.
The following statistics illustrate the need for stronger protection of children:
29% of children are used for child labor (2)
57 out of 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday (2)
In 2012, 48% of the poorest children were stunted due to malnutrition (2)
In 2011, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experienced sexual violence (5)
Only 66% of school-age children in Tanzania attend school, and girls are particularly in danger of not receiving their full education through secondary school. In 2017, the government began mandating pregnancy tests at school, forcing pregnant adolescents to drop out. Each year, approximately 8,000 girls are ejected from school. (3)
On their website, Unicef states: “These children - and others who are orphans, living on the street or in extreme poverty - are considered to be most vulnerable to violations of their rights and in need of special protection.” (5)
Worldwide approximately 263 million children don’t attend school. (1) In addition to sexual violence and a lack of protection for girls, another issue has taken center stage - the plight of refugees.
Unicef calls the refugee crisis impacting 50 million children worldwide “the worst since World War II.” (4) These are children fleeing armed conflicts in places including Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Iraq. It also includes children escaping extreme poverty and gang violence from regions such as Central America. The children lose their security, saying good-bye to their homes and embarking on dangerous journeys. Many remain out of school for long lengths of time. Some are separated from their parents and families.
Many refugees face walls, not welcome, after a long journey. Photo credit: Cole Patrick
The blue campaign for awareness is a first step. Next, more action is needed both in home countries and refugee camps. Every child has the right to learn, play, grow and love. In short, every child has the right to be a child.
First there was Thanksgiving, a day of counting our blessings. Next, came Black Friday, for some, a day of discounting holiday purchases. Soon arrived Cyber Monday, a simple way to do an accounting of our loved ones, buying them gifts with a click. For nonprofit organizations like Brighter Tanzania Organization, it is #GivingTuesday for which we are counting down.
Giving Tuesday (or #GivingTuesday) began six years ago and has been growing ever since. It is a day for charitable giving, its message spread through social media. In 2017, nonprofit organizations raised an estimated $274 million in the United States. This was a 50 percent increase over 2016.
The movement is spreading, too. Other countries around the world have begun #GivingTuesday movements of their own. Participating countries include the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Israel, Kazakhistan, and Kenya. In fact, on its website, #GivingTuesday is described as a “global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.”
In Arusha, Tanzania, donations to Brighter Tanzania Foundation on #GivingTuesday will be used to support literacy at Saving Grace School. The school library currently holds 50 books. We aspire to expand that number to 500. We hope that an expanded library will help children strengthen their reading skills out of class as well as in.
Why do we need a national day to donate? Donating can be done any time of the year. Many people though, like to include gift giving in their end of year planning. A giving spirit is also present at this time of year with holidays of all kinds upon us. #GivingTuesday is simply a good reminder of the many worthy organizations that help people in need and that are in need of a little help themselves. For those unable to donate money, other types of giving, such as time, are welcome as well.
If interested in contributing to the Brighter Tanzania Foundation’s #GivingTuesday campaign, go to https://www.mightycause.com/story/Btfbooks.
What do you do for Brighter Tanzania Foundation?
As a content creator, I research and write on a variety of topics that have relevance to BTF and Saving Grace School. My articles, which are posted on the BTF blog, focus on poverty, literacy and the history and culture of Tanzania. I also help spread the foundation’s mission through the use of social media.
How did you get involved with Brighter Tanzania Foundation?
I am a freelance writer with a background in education. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in which I could gain more writing experience. I found the BTF job posting on Volunteer Match. It was exactly what I was looking for - a chance to write, a focus on education, an opportunity to learn about another culture, and an inspiring mission.
What do you like most about working with Brighter Tanzania Foundation?
As I mentioned, I love learning about a culture that previously, I knew little about. I feel like my global lens has widened. For example, the work has helped me appreciate the many obstacles that women face in developing countries. Many have very limited life opportunities, and yet so much is being done to change the trajectory.
Aside from stretching my mind, I love the photos that are shared of the children from Saving Grace School through social media or that Felicia has taken during her trips to Arusha. The kids have the biggest, brightest smiles. They are absolutely infectious!
What is the most interesting thing you have learned about Tanzania and Saving Grace School?
An interesting fact that I have learned about Tanzania ( and included in my blog about Union Day) is that the name is a combination of Tanganyika (the original name of the mainland) and Zanzibar (an archipelago in the Indian Ocean).
Regarding Saving Grace School, I am inspired by the school’s mission. The school serves impoverished children whose cost of education is covered by the government. However, because many families are unable to afford uniforms, supplies and fees, education remains inaccessible. Saving Grace is at the forefront of fighting poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.
What do you do during your free time?
I am an avid reader, and I love yoga. Living in Wisconsin, I also enjoy getting out in the snow and cross country skiing. I live in a community called Wauwatosa with my husband, John, and two sons, Will and Ryan. The two other members of our family are Gus, our old tabby cat, and Tilly, our young and energetic golden doodle.
At a glance
Population: 26.26 million
Official Languages: Malagasy and French
Religion: Traditional/Indigenous (50%) Christian (41%) Muslim (7%)
Fertility Rate: 4.03 births per woman
Life Expectancy: 66.3 years (64.7 Men) (67.8 women)
Literacy Rate: 64.7% (total) 66.7%(men) 62.6%(women)
Currency: Malagasy Ariary
GDP: 4.1% growth (2017)
Form of Government: Presidential Republic
Natural Resources: semi-precious and precious stones, coal, ilmenite, chromite, cobalt, iron, copper, nickel
Exports: cloves, ylang-ylang, vanilla
A Vibrant Ecosystem
Inhabitants of the island nation of Madagascar - and that includes its people, animals, flora and fauna - are among the world’s most diverse.
The plant biodiversity on Madagascar is a botanist’s dream. A staggering 13,900 plant species grow on the island. Its animal kingdom boasts of over 350 species of birds and two-thirds of the world’s chameleon species. (5) Its largest predator, the fossa, is found nowhere else in the world. (2) Not surprisingly, Madagascar is a growing eco-tourist destination.
Madagascar’s human inhabitants are heterogenous, too. Though settlers migrated from the African continent in 1000 AD, earlier settlers arrived between 350 and 550 A.D., from present-day Indonesia. The Malagasy also have Persian and Arab influence from the traders who arrived around the 7th century. Later, in 1896, Madagascar was colonized by the French before fighting and gaining their independence in 1960. Consequently, 18 ethnic groups reside in Madagascar, the groups clustered in regions across the country. Still, most residents are multi-ethnic. (3)
Four times the size of the state of Georgia, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. It is located in the Indian Ocean east of Mozambique. Because of its large size, it has several climates - tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south. From May through October, the island enjoys its dry, cool season while November through April brings the hot and rainy season. The island is vulnerable to monsoons, cyclones, and southeastern trade winds. (5)
The population of Madagascar is mostly rural and poor. Almost 80 percent live on less than $1.90 a day, a benchmark the United Nations uses to define extreme poverty. In addition, only 15 percent of the population is able to access electricity. (4)
A majority of its residents survive on subsistence farming. Crops include coffee, sugar cane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava, beans, bananas, and peanuts. Madagascar is one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang. Over thirty percent of the nation’s GDP is in agriculture. Industry takes up a 15 percent share of GDP and the remaining 52 percent is in services. (3)
The Malagasy are proud of a rich oral tradition. Their primary means of expression are poetry, public discourse and proverbs. Music and wood carving are also integral parts of the Madagascar cultural heritage. (5)
A meal one might expect to eat in Madagascar would likely start with a bowl of rice topped with a protein of beans or meat. In some parts of the country, romazava, a side dish made of green leafy vegetables in broth, is served. Some might add spice to their meal with lasary, a condiment made of chili peppers, green mangos and lemon. (5)
The Malagasy religious practices include different forms of Christianity and to a smaller degree Islam. However, half of the population holds traditional Malagasy beliefs. In fact, Madagascar holds one of the highest proportions of its population practicing an indigenous religion. Their beliefs focus on one creator, neither male nor female, called Zanahary. A close relationship exists between the living and their ancestors. They avoid disapproval from these ancestors by observing taboos called fadys. (7)
In Ireland, one in six adults struggles to read and understand basic daily messages: leaflets, bus timetables, medicine instructions. In response, the Irish marked International Literacy Day, September 8, with a conference in Dublin titled “Literacy Matters: Challenges and Solutions for Communicating Effectively with the Public.” (1)
Established by UNESCO (the United Nation’s Specialized Agency for Education) in 1966, International Literacy Day is celebrated by different peoples in different ways. One thing they all shared was the 2018 theme of blending literacy with skills development.
The celebrations stretched across the hemispheres. Here in the U.S. the Jonesboro Public Library in Jonesboro, Arkansas hosted a family storytime including a read aloud, flannel story and music. Following the storytime, children could play in centers set up to encourage specific skills - a sensory spelling center, kinesthetic sand making and color sorting games. (1)
On the other side of the globe in Amritsar, India, college students competed in quizzes, essay writing and a debate, all live-streamed on Facebook. They also organized a social awareness campaign for local citizens.(1)
In Hamburg, Germany, an adult panel discussion took place. Participants focused on the meaning of illiteracy and how it influences a person’s education, career, and daily life. (1)
In Kingston, Jamaica, dignitaries including the country’s poet laureate joined in a morning Read-In .(1)
In 1820 only 12 % of the world’s population was literate. Two centuries later, 83% are literate. (2) We are moving in the right direction, so why the worries?
For starters, literacy is not developed on an even playing field. Of the 750 million people who cannot read or write, two-thirds are women. Also, the largest chunks of illiterate populaces are found in the poorest of countries. (1)
Also important to acknowledge, we are in an increasingly digitized and globalized world, a world where reading is more important than ever. The 192 million unemployed individuals are a vulnerable population in need of both literacy training and skills development.
Let’s step back for a minute and take a look at a brief history of literacy. The earliest forms of written communication are believed to have taken place between 3,500 and 3,000 B.C. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that book production steadily grew as did literacy among the population in the Western World. In the 19th and 20th centuries, literacy rates accelerated in 1st world countries, particularly after the middle of the 20th century when an expansion of basic education occurred. (2)
It is improvement in basic education that will hopefully lead countries such as Tanzania on this same trajectory. Sub-saharan Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world. It is no surprise that the region’s literacy rates are among the lowest. Though Tanzania outpaces some in this region, the country strives to continue improving. It has a current literacy rate of 77.9%, with roughly 83% of males and 73% of females able to read and write. (3)
International Literacy Day reminds us how far our global community has come, but also the inequities and gaps that still exist.
Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
Phone: (608) 886-9160
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