When one analyses poverty, it is almost immediately apparent that on the surface, Third World countries, in particular sub-Saharan African countries, are characterised by hunger and in many cases, absolute poverty.
Ironically, these same regions are home to massive resources and raw materials that could potentially feed its inhabitants and yet, poverty remains widespread. In view of this anomaly, the researcher decided to embark on a study, which would investigate the natural resource deposits in Third World countries, the difficulties the leaders of these countries have in equitably distributing wealth to their citizens and why the legitimate owners of these resources are not benefiting from them.
Poverty is defined as living on US$1.25 or less per day and according to World Bank statistics in 2010, those living on $1.25 or less per day accounted for 48.5% of the sub-Saharan population. By its very definition, poverty is an unwelcome blight on society and must be eradicated.
In undertaking the research questions begin to emerge: Is it simply the lack of technology to turn raw materials into value-added goods? Could it be the complete ignorance of the leaders? Or is it something more sinister, the result of a deliberate move by the leaders along with external forces to starve the people and bring instability to the regions?
We will begin our search for the true source of continued poverty by examining three Third World regions: Africa, Asia and Latin America. For each region the following will be examined; population, total resources/wealth, richest and the poorest countries in each region, literacy rates and the prevalence of communicable diseases.
In examining these factors, we will begin to identify common problems, which contribute to persistent and widespread poverty in these regions. It is imperative that a comparison is made between these three regions.
We begin with Africa being the world’s second largest continent, comprised of 54 countries, which are home to a total population of 1.11 billion people, followed by Asia the world’s largest continent comprised of 48 countries, which are home to a total population of 4.3 billion people, and finally Latin America, which is made up of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, with a population of 615 million people.
Certainly these are not small populations. When the resources of these regions are viewed in isolation, there appears to be vast wealth or at the very least the potential to generate vast amounts of wealth for these nations. Of course what statistics for the wealthy countries are not showing us is the disparity in income distribution. Only a very small percentage of people in the richest countries enjoy the luxury of education, wealth and comfort.
In sub-Saharan Africa almost 600 million people live without electricity, meaning they rely on mass bio-fuels, such as wood and charcoal, the over-use of which has a detrimental effect on our environment. Many studies on education and literacy in youth have pointed to the high prominence of poor literacy in disadvantaged adult lives. It is very often the case that lack of education and poverty go hand-in-hand.
Declining public health services, mismanagement of funds, a shortage of primary healthcare facilities in rural areas and a shortage of qualified healthcare workers, all paint a sadly common picture of the effects of poverty on a community.
In each of these regions there are people who have demonstrated that it is possible to generate significant wealth. While it would be tempting to believe that these people acquired their wealth via less than honest means, this number is a small representation of those who have put their hands to the spade and worked hard to change their circumstances.
When we talk of poverty, it is not simply that groups of people do not have money; abject poverty is also a form of social exclusion. Poverty prevents people from exercising? their basic human rights.
Education is the key to eradicating poverty over the long term. It must begin in the home and continue throughout the individual’s life. It is never too late to begin the process either. There are many success stories that have come from adult and lifelong learning interventions in rural or marginalised communities.
Of course, we cannot ignore the foundation that must be laid in formal education through quality pre-primary education.
Access, equity and quality must be high on the agenda of every government.
Education cannot be compromised and it cannot be seen as a drain on a country’s resources, when in fact it is an investment.
If we think implementing education is too expensive, we should consider the cost of an uneducated, hungry and disenfranchised population.
* This piece was delivered during the World Congress on Education in Mumbai, India, in July 2015.