A Life Transformed
….committed to learning to free myself from ignorance
Naomi Béré, one of the literacy beneficiaries along with other 842 students from Bindougouso, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso shares her experience. “When I was a child, I did not have the opportunity to attend school as I had health issues. After I was married, I went to Bible school with my husband for a pre-course on literacy. During this time, I made efforts to learn to read and write so that I could take notes in class, but I was not able to acquire enough skills to take notes and this affected my training. In Bible school, I was given the opportunity to supervise children. However, I was forced to resign a few days later, as I did not know how to read or write. Later, my husband and I decided to plant a church together, but because of my lack of knowledge in reading and writing, I could not support my husband in his pastoral ministry. He was forced to appoint another lady to play this role as the ministry demanded a woman leader when and where several churches meet.”
I was ashamed of the fact that I could not read or write. Very often, I declined offers to attend meetings and this made me feel inferior. I forced myself to wear away.
“When a literacy class was announced in our church, I did not hesitate to register despite my age. I was committed to learn and free myself of ignorance. Today, I am able to read the Bible easily; I take notes during meetings; write songs for the choir; compose letters and even help my children with their studies. I now feel very proud and have a new found confidence in myself.”
“I encourage those who are illiterate, whatever their age, to look for opportunity to learn, because knowledge frees and reassures.”
Is literacy an integral part of Bible mission?
The choice to intentionally engage in literacy activities is an integral part of the Bible translation process and thus central to the Bible societies’ mission. Publishing Bibles for people who cannot read limits the beneficiary’s engagement with the scriptures. The ability to read the Bible for oneself, find meaning from it and digest it as God’s message for one’s life, family, community and society is a vital resource that cannot be overstated. Promoting literacy activities as an integral part of the UBS Bible mission strategy is especially important for regions of the world where literacy remains low.
“Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health. one’s income and one’s relationship with the world”.
Is there still a need for literacy today?
Audio Bibles can be a good starting point providing rapid access to the scripture, especially for predominantly oral cultures, but it can only be a short term approach.
If the goal of translation is limited to an oral presentation of the Bible text, then our translation philosophy for that language group needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Although an audio or visual experience may be the first way a non-literate person may experience the Bible, a key part of Bible engagement is to be able to navigate through the Bible oneself and use supplementary study notes.
Where are the literacy priority zones?
According to global literacy statistics available today, Bible Societies situated in the five regions of the world – all in the Global South – need to focus on their non-literate audiences:
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- South and West Asia
- East Asia and the Pacific
- The Arab states and
- Latin America and the Caribbean
While Sub-Saharan Africa has the most number of countries (38) with high illiteracy rates, South-West Asia has the largest number (51%) of non-literates. Needless to say that these two regions present the most acute literacy need and priority. However, the need felt by the other three zones is real for them and Bible Societies situated in those regions.
How is literacy linked to translation?
When we consider new translations the need for literacy becomes all the more acute. It is highly likely that a language that does not have a New Testament or a Bible will also be a language that belongs to a literacy priority zone.
If we, as a fellowship of Bible Societies, are committed to making the scriptures available to all people, it is not enough to give priority to translation work alone. In all our translation projects we need to ensure that there is a significant reading community ready to receive and use the Bible in the most effective manner. In that sense, there is a clear need for translation and literacy activities to be more closely linked.
Global Literacy Coordination Desk
Call on us for help if you want to start a literacy project in your country.
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