Illiteracy in Guyana is on the increase daily. I travel to Georgetown about four times a week and to other parts of the country, and I observe that many of our young people are street corner and market vendors. Most of them are school drop-outs and illiterates.
On my way to Georgetown last week, I saw a very young teenage girl selling water in the middle of the road. This young lady was about fifteen years old and ought to have been in school, but was risking her life in the middle of the road selling bottles of water to earn a living.
As I travelled another few blocks down the road, I counted about ten more boys and girls as young as ten years old selling water; most of these children are from African backgrounds. I am concerned about the Ministry of Human Services as well as the Ministry of Education when I see these young lives stolen by poverty and bad parents to earn a living. I am still wondering if our government has a plan for these school drop-outs selling all across our streets and those that are involved in child labour.
In my conversation with these kids most of them come from broken homes and are with single parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents, or no one ‒ they just live anywhere. Most of them cannot read or write. Illiteracy is on the rise in our country; it’s no wonder domestic violence and murders now join the ignorance that has become a plague in our society. On my visits to the GPOC tons of people will ask me to fill out a basic birth certificate form. The banks are the same, as well as the immigration and other offices.
A few days ago, I performed a legal marriage for a young couple. I discovered that both of these young people aged 18 and 21 could hardly sign their own names. The boy tried but the girl took very long to write her name in a jumble of letters; sometimes young people would sign and write their own names incorrectly. As a legal marriage officer and reverend I deal with lots of people on a one-to-one basis every day, and I have discovered that a large number of our population can hardly read or write. We will now have to build adult schools to educate our people.
Domestic violence comes from both wives and husbands, and there are also cases of children abusing parents and grandparents too. The root of all the violence and killings we see every day is illiteracy. Illiterate parents will produce more illiterate children and school drop-outs because they will never know the value of a good education. We can never teach our children something we never learned. I also note with interest that lots of parents don’t have an interest in books and learning; they can buy smart phones, modern TV’s and big music systems, but books are no longer valued. Parents today contribute significantly to the disaster of their children’s future, because they set a bad example for their children to follow.
When we study crime and drugs as well as the use of alcohol in our society, we must study individuals socially, morally, academically and spiritually. The use of alcohol that is legally sold is the greatest source of human degradation. Most domestic violence and murders are a result of alcohol use and drugs. I have seen rum shops all over this country, particularly in East Indian communities. Murders and killings are coming from these bars. People think of fast money from selling rum, but rum is a curse on the human race, and we give people national awards and honorary degrees for manufacturing rum. I have seen the use of rum and drugs destroy lots of educated people, even celebrities.
A good education in a civilized society is the key to our success. In some countries I have been to it’s compulsory for drivers to know how to read and write, and for every citizen to go to school, both young and old. Only a few adults today are interested in reading; most people today are seen with tons of DVDs; they have to watch movies ‒ worthless things that have no value for them and their children. Our citizens have become part of a ‘carefree’ nation.
It’s time the government arrest this situation by building more schools to educate the old and the young. Illiteracy and blindness are just the same basically. I know of a story involving an illiterate guy who walked into live electric wires because he couldn’t read the warning sign. The youths of today will become the leaders of tomorrow, but without a proper education how can they lead their own lives? We should follow the model of the Greeks and Romans who were the greatest intellectuals on earth. If our people are properly educated academically, morally and spiritually, we will see a massive reduction in crime and violence. Our problems are moral and spiritual and if we deal with them by educating our youths we will have a glorious nation like a blooming rose garden smiling at dawn.
Rev Gideon Cecil