Can Literacy Prevent Fires?

Can literacy prevent fires? I say yes, at least for certain kinds. I believe the link of illiteracy to poverty, disease, and violence cannot be ignored. Yesterday I was reading about the current discussions at the United Nations. It seems like most of the talks at the UN are taken up by a countless crises like Iran’s nuclear program, or the Darfur crisis in Sudan (though it seems that Darfur should get more attention, considering its a full-on genocide – but that’s just me). Debates among top government officials revolve around extinguishing metaphorical fires around the globe.

Terrorism, genocide, and undisclosed nuclear weapons programs definitely indicate a bleak and frightening future unless we find some solutions – and find them fast – so I can’t say I blame the UN for the current discussions. When 200,000 people have been killed, and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes into refugee camps in Darfur, it’s not surprising that fighting poverty, establishing basic health care, building infrastructure, or developing education is taking a backseat.

As I was reading about it all in the paper, part of me feared that these horrible crises might never come to an end. I mentioned before that the link of illiteracy to poverty, disease, and violence cannot be ignored. Of course, the UN and developed countries provide a great deal of aid to fight poverty, which I’m not discounting, but perhaps we need more groups that are specifically focused on literacy.  There is a frightening percentage of the world’s population that can’t read (20% — that’s one in five people).

Without access to quality education, democracy cannot function and intolerance cannot be overcome.  It may be a bold statement to say that literacy will prevent genocide, but I definitely believe it. As governments need to put out fires around the world, perhaps we need more groups like Books for Africa, Room to Read, NCFL, and Worldfund to help prevent fires in the first place.

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