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Alarm over 'illiteracy'

Repeka Nasiko
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FIJI National University academic Professor Subramani says the state of literacy in Fiji is deteriorating into a new wave of illiteracy.

"In nations like Fiji, which acquired literacy recently beginning in 1835 with the arrival of missionaries, it is quickly degenerating into a new illiteracy before becoming a fully literate state," he said.

"My definition of literate society is one which does more than just read and write, that is the minimum standard. A truly literate society derives pleasure and wisdom from the written word in all its forms — social, educational, intellectual, artistic and spiritual.

"Societies in the East and the West where literacy existed through a much longer period of time have the written word for all these purposes in the highest form."

He said countries such as Fiji from the post-colonial state had just started to publish their first books when it descended into illiteracy again.

"The first illiteracy is the inability to read and write. This new illiteracy that I am talking about is knowing how to read and write but the literate mind and the sensitivity for the written mind has not become established firmly and has started to decay.

"The younger generation, before the written word could forge its hold, it started to lose its appeal.

"The illiteracy that I am talking about begins indeed at illiteracy where our students cannot read and write in their own language and in their own mother tongue."

He said some of the ways to improve literacy in the country would be to improve teacher education systems.

"Teacher education will have to, as the first step, theorise and learning more rigorously using the languages of postcolonial theory.

"Teacher education must search for a language of resistance to new illiteracy."

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