Low lit­er­acy rate

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report -

From 2013 to 2015, Guinea suf­fered an Ebola epi­demic, which hit trade and tourism and saw the econ­omy slump.

That’s why, Bamba said, he per­son­ally got in­volved in the book cap­i­tal event. “We want to send out a pos­i­tive im­age of Guinea where we have a vi­brant youth who are, like any other youth in the world, ea­ger to par­tic­i­pate in the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try, the con­ti­nent and the world. This is one of the op­por­tu­ni­ties we have seized to im­prove the im­age that was dam­aged by the Ebola.”

Non-guineans too are de­lighted, like Joschka Philipps, a so­ci­ol­o­gist who has writ­ten a book on the youth gangs of Con­akry, Am­biva­lent Rage. “When I heard of Con­akry be­ing the World Book Cap­i­tal, I was ex­tremely ex­cited be­cause Con­akry is a place of cre­ativ­ity, re­silience and sur­prise,” he said. “It’s also a place with a lot of poetry.”

But de­spite its for­mi­da­ble pha­lanx of nov­el­ists and po­ets, Guinea suf­fers from a low lit­er­acy rate. United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Africa put adult lit­er­acy in Guinea in 2012 at 34 per­cent. In the CIA World Fact­book, an an­nual pub­li­ca­tion of the U.S. Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, up­dated in July, only 30.4 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion aged 15 and above can read and write.

“Since in­de­pen­dence [from France] in 1958, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was weak,” Barry ex­plained. “Cur­rently, the ed­u­ca­tion bud­get rep­re­sents only 3.8 per­cent of the GDP. Be­sides, there is no lit­er­acy pol­icy that makes it manda­tory for chil­dren to go to school at the right age. Also, schools are of­ten in re­mote ar­eas, not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble.”

Barry thinks in­ter­na­tional fi­nance must be mo­bi­lized to re­vamp the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. If the World Book Cap­i­tal doesn’t gen­er­ate funds for that, it will at least cre­ate fresh in­ter­est in read­ing among Guineans while for­eign­ers would be in­ter­ested in read­ing Guinean au­thors. “The fact that Guinea is re­ceiv­ing so many writ­ers and re­searchers is in­creas­ing the in­ter­est in read­ing in a coun­try where the level of read­ing is low,” he said.

Bamba, though he moved to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. in 2008 to work as a soft­ware de­vel­oper and has since then ac­quired Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship, is work­ing with other non-res­i­dent Guineans in North Amer­ica to “build a bridge be­tween our new coun­tries and Guinea to pro­mote Guinea and give back to Guinea.”

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