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Illiteracy greater in rural Zambia, and more among women than men – M’membe

DR FRED M’membe says a characteristic of illiteracy is that it is greater in Zambia’s rural than in urban areas, and was among women more than men.

In his reflections on education, Dr M’membe, the Socialist Party president, said underdevelopment was, among other things, lack of learning and lack of the possibility to learn.

He said it was not only about the number of those that could not read and write.

“It is also how many cannot read or write, or pass on to higher levels of education due to the lack of teachers, schools and the minimum conditions beyond those most elementary for subsistence,” he said. “That is why our dramatic educational and cultural problems cannot be isolated from our overall socio-economic situation.”

Dr M’membe said a characteristic of illiteracy was that it was greater in Zambia’s rural than in urban areas, and was among women more than among men.

“It is not by chance, however, that the geographic and social distribution of illiteracy is almost the same as that of poverty. Illiterates are, as a rule, also the poorest, the most poorly fed, the least healthy, the most disadvantaged and exploited,” Dr M’membe said. “The illiteracy figures reveal the frustrated development of human capacities and potential; the limitations on the individual as a human being and as part of a community; exploitation and ignorance as to a better future; the dramatic social effects of underdevelopment; loss of national identity; social and economic backwardness.”

Dr M’membe said many Zambian children today lack schools or the means and possibilities to attend school.

“The rationale behind this reality and its cause is the situation of poverty that forces them to drop out of school, the distances that have to be covered to get to school and the deplorable material conditions of many of the schools,” he said.

“Another factor to be borne in mind is the insufficient training of teaching staff and the lack of ways and means to remedy this insufficiency, which has its effect on the limited and poor quality teaching provided. To add to an already gloomy situation, there is the number of university graduates that are lost every year due to the brain drain of the major capitalist powers.”

Dr M’membe stressed another aspect that hampers national efforts in the pursuit of education and cultural development.

He said imperialist mass media were continuously, sometimes subtly and sometimes openly, carrying out a process of ideological and cultural penetration aimed at eroding the country’s cultural identities, creating habits and patterns of conduct foreign to people’s needs, belittling and deforming their cultures in their own eyes.

“This, of course, has no bearing on the flow of ideas or on the legitimate exchange of the products of their cultures among peoples. These very mass media are working to create a consumerist image devoid of all rationality and are trying to impose mesmerising illusions on our people as absolute truths. An enormous percentage of the television programmes broadcast today in our country come from developed capitalist countries,” said Dr M’membe.

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