Is there value still in literacy?

Off to school: The value of literacy is declining in the eyes of the new generation
Off to school: The value of literacy is declining in the eyes of the new generation

While those with limited literacy yearn for more opportunities to come their way, today’s literate regard the skill-set as only good enough for greater reasoning and decision-making. Literacy is now less of a deal breaker for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, writes Mmegi staffer, BABOKI KAYAWE

Failure to set foot in a classroom robbed Kgosi Gaebolae Goitseone from Jamakata of his top position in the recently gazetted village. This came after government upgraded the village Kgotla from Arbitration to Records early last year, which came with a condition that the Kgosi should be literate enough to be able to read and write.

Unfortunately, Goitseone, who had salivated for a salaried position after years of voluntary service, failed to satisfy the condition because he does not know how to read and write.

As a result, members of the royal family fingered his son Mosalagae Galebonwe, 26, to replace Goitseone following government’s upgrading of the Kgotla early this year.


Thousand others have missed out on opportunities owing to the inability to read and write. One octogenarian in my home village always likens illiteracy to blindness as one walks about life without comprehending what those ‘blessed’ enough to learn the alphabets are communicating.

“It pains me to be this blind. While a teenager I nearly became lunch to some angry dogs in my search for a job.

Apparently the gate was boldly labelled that there was no job and people had to beware of dogs,” she once told me.

Letsema Molome, a 55-year-old woman, attended school as far as Standard 7. She could not continue with her studies despite having performed well at Mahalapye School due to economic reasons.

“The value of literacy back then was unquestionable. With whatever education, golden doors could open unlike today when our children have stacks of academic qualifications, but very hard for them to breakthrough in life,” she said.

She wished she could have gone further to do her secondary education.

“My parents only depended on agriculture for a livelihood, and they didn’t afford my educational expenses,” she added.

Things were not as hard as they have become nowadays. She got employed to serve as a cleaner and messenger for Dikgang Publishing Company after being recommended by a former employer. 

“There were plenty of opportunities back then even for us we went as far as Standard 7. Education was a crucial tool to open up doors, and those who never went through school were thirsty to acquire education because it was a major differentiator,” she said.

There are few job opportunities now, compared to back then said 20-year-old journalism student, Kealeboga Phiri. 

Though a majority of people are degree and diploma holders, UB Media Studies student Phiri thinks literacy still has value, but is more of a commodity than a differentiating factor.

“I believe that literacy is the key to success although nowadays it seems like people who are educated are just the same as those who are not.

 Its like education has lost its value as both the literate and the illiterate are fighting for low paying jobs,” he said.

The difference between the two is that though the literate persons do not earn the fattest salaries, or do not have comfortable jobs, they are very much enlightened and their perspective on a number of issues is advanced, according to Phiri.

There are fewer opportunities today compared to yesteryears due to rapid increase in literacy rates, and of course population expansion.

“Globalisation has also led to a situation where people get educated to serve the international community. There is stiff competition for job opportunities coming not only from locals, but also international folk,” added Phiri.

Twenty-five-year-old social worker, Mike Giri said literacy has no value, especially in modern day Botswana.

“Nowadays more especially in our country, literacy has no value as compared to back then, that is why graduates are paid P600 to do work they spent years training for,” he said.

He was quick to admit the difference between literate and illiterate people in that the former stands a better chance of getting a better job in case an opportunity avails itself. In addition, literate people stand to be better informed, broad-minded as well as have an upper hand in decision-making.

This week Statistics Botswana released the 2014 Literacy Survey, indicating a 9.9 percent increase in the literacy rate for the population aged between 10 and 70, from an estimated 76.6 percent in 2003 to 86.5 percent to date.

Despite the increase in literacy levels, it is worth noting that the economic activity and unemployment aspect of the survey recorded a lower degree of Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) at 64.3 percent, as compared to 69.6 percent according to the 2013 Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS) IV (). The LFPR reflected the extent to which a country’s working age group is economically active, stated the report. 

“For both surveys, participation rate in economic activity is high for young adults, and then gradually declines at older ages,” stated the survey.

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