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Literacy in the 90's
The Role of SIL

This informative booklet, now published here on the Web, was originally printed in the 1990s. As a historical document, it reflects SIL's work in literacy during that decade.

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Foreword: Two worlds or one?

We live in two worlds.

On the one hand there is the sophisticated, knowledge expanding, exciting world of computers and space travel. It is a world which has the will and resources tomount a space probe that can propel a rocket 2.5 billion miles into space sending back information and color pictures of Neptune and its moons. It is a world where the rich get richer and where computers get faster and more powerful every month; a world of fantasy and elegance; of bounty and hope.

On the other hand, there is another world. A lesser known world. A world trapped in a never ending cycle of poverty, debt and ignorance. This is a world where 900 million people cannot read and have little hope of learning to do so; a world where millions of people routinely go to bed hungry and where half of one's children die before they learn to walk. It's a grim world—a world where each day is a bitter battle for survival—a world darkened by the constant shadow of illiteracy.

How different these two worlds are. Equally real, yet so different, they could be universes apart.

A literacy supervisor discusses his work with a Deg chief in Ghana. A literacy supervisor discusses his work with a Deg chief in Ghana.

Many things must be done to bridge the gap between these two worlds. I am convinced that literacy is one of the fundamental components for closing the yawning void. By mastering the skills of reading and writing, there is new hope and new self-respect. The cycle can be broken and the gap closed.

SIL is committed to doing its part in developing literacy materials and training literacy instructors in the language groups where it serves.

I am grateful for the start which has been made, but it is still pitifully inadequate. Where are those will join us in this task? Resources need to be multiplied ten-fold to begin to close the gap and to endow each world with equal measures of respect, equality, and opportunity.

John Bendor-Samuel, Ph.D.
(Executive Vice-President SIL, August 31, 1989)

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