Literacy needs to be attended by a philosophy

In May of 1998, I attended a ceremony to celebrate the opening of
200 non-formal schools in a rural area of Punjab state,Palistan.

The Minister of Education offered the following congratulatory comments.

"Today in our nation there are a dozen or so scientists like
Dr. Kadil Khan who by their supreme efforts have accomplished great
technological advances. Literacy education makes possible such
great developments in scientific technology. As the number of schools
increases, we can look forward to ever greater advances in nuclear
technology." What I was hearing filled me with uneasiness, even
anger. Dr. Kadil Khan is lauded as the father of the Pakistani atomic
bomb. If literacy is to be applied to objectives such as development of
nuclear weapons, then these skills are perhaps best left undeveloped.
As my heart rebelled against the view expressed by the honorable
minister, my mind echoed with the words “human literacy.”

Literacy needs to be attended by a philosophy, a direction. It is not
only a question of whether or not one can read, write and calculate,
for it is the humanness of the individual, with a consciousness of basic
values and objectives shared among all humanity, that makes literacy
a rich asset for both the individual and society. How often has the
written word been employed in bringing unhappiness and even death
to people? Even now this is happening. Expressive capacity,
knowledge, and technology made possible through written characters
should be applied with recognition of the responsibilities of the user.
Literacy exists to empower the human being, dispel misunderstanding,
prevent conflict, and make the world a place where mutual
understanding and trust can bring people together.

As my mind wandered back to my homeland Japan, I wondered if
reading and knowledge, and information and technology, were there
being used in such a manner as to bring happiness to the people.
Then and there, I was inspired to try to construct a Human Literacy
Index (HLI) as a barometer of sorts by which to somewhat objectively
measure the degree to which the literacy abilities of an individual are
being put to use for the good of humanity.

After the dedication ceremony had ended, I sat in the car for the
six-hour drive back to Islamabad. As we rode through the evening
dusk, the car radio brought the news that, as a counter to India,
Pakistan had in the Chagai hills carried out its first test explosion
of a nuclear bomb.

by Tajima Shinji






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