literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.


READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.


READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed lives around the world, affecting economies, living situations and posing the lingering question: what happens next? One of the major aspects of life affected by the pandemic in all communities is education. According to UNESCO, COVID-19 has directly affected the education of 1.06 billion children worldwide as of July 2020. With school closures and cases continuing to surge, the nature of teaching has been forced to shift considerably. In Africa, different countries are determining how to proceed with precautions to keep students, educators and their families safe while still facilitating education. The Ministry of Education in Senegal, for example, is providing educational aid in the form of online learning and resources. For those who may not have internet access, however, this makes receiving education challenging. Book Aid International, an organization providing books to children across 26 African countries, is seeking to correct this challenge by administering online educational tools as well as resources that do not require an internet connection.

Book Aid International

Book Aid International’s central mission is to provide books to children in poverty. The organization accomplishes this goal by organizing talented staff members and garnering donations for its cause. In 2019, Book Aid International was able to provide 1.2 million books to children across 26 countries. Distributing books to those in poverty allows for educational growth and increased opportunities for the future. Not only does this organization positively impact education, but also the healthcare industry. Through partnerships in 2018 with Elsevier and Elsevier USA, over 154,000 medical textbooks were donated to hospitals and schools to aid students pursuing healthcare careers.

COVID-19 and Book Aid International

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Book Aid International is developing an improved vision for the rest of 2020. The organization is continuing with book distributions in areas where it has established partnerships, but is also working toward providing e-resources to various communities. COVID-19 has forced many schools around the world to shut down completely. Some can provide online learning but in rural countries, online access may not be available to every student. However, in areas that Book Aid International has given aid, teachers can provide students with books donated by the organization, helping to close the gap between those with internet access and those without. With these resources, children can learn to read while schools are closed.

Adapting to a new routine can be difficult, especially for educators who want to aid their pupils. Having a book to read at home can inspire and help children exercise their minds and prepare for returning to school as the global situation continues to develop. While COVID-19 has presented several disruptions to this pursuit, efforts like that of Book Aid International can provide students with the resources they need to succeed at home.

Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr