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Last updated at 12:26 BST, Monday, 28 September 2009

UN: Improve literacy in Africa


25 September 2009

More needs to be done to improve literacy rates across Africa, according to the United Nations. Only six out of ten people living in Africa can read and write - something the UN is highlighting.

Caroline Duffield

In a class

In a class


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20% of adults around the world are unable to read or write. But in Africa, the figure is thought to be close to double that, and the number is growing.

There are strong regional differences in the continent. West Africa suffers far more than Southern Africa, for example. While literacy skills have the power to transform individual lives and whole communities, the number of people here who are unable to read and write at present poses a major barrier to economic development in Africa.

The UN says those people lacking access to education are often the most disadvantaged and marginalised populations. A high percentage of them are women and girls, indigenous populations and people with disabilities.

Caroline Duffield, BBC News, Lagos


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close to double that

almost twice as high

literacy skills

knowing how and being able to read and write

the power to transform

the ability and means to change radically (for the better)


a community means people, usually living in the same area, who are seen as a single group (e.g. because of their common interests or ethnic origin, or because they belong to the same social group)

poses a major barrier to

is a very significant obstruction/obstacle for; stops (something - here, economic development) from happening

lacking access to education

who have no means, primarily money, to go to school themselves or send their children there


having lower level of living standards, education, health care etc. than most other people


taken, or kept away from a position of power or influence; treated as unimportant


always living in a particular area, rather than having arrived from elsewhere


conditions of your body or mind (often physical and/or mental injuries, or traumas) that make it more difficult for you to do the things that other people do

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