George Orwell’s Allegory On The Disastrous Effects Of Illiteracy And Inequality Is Alluded In The World Bank’s Upcoming Report

Author: Charlote Dera

Charlote Dera is a Literary Activist and a volunteer for the University of Witwatersrand Sexual and Reproductive Health Research Institute.

In the satirical novel “Animal Farm”, we become aware of education’s role in stratifying the farm’s population. The fair ideals that once guided the animals are exploited once the pigs cement their status as the educated elite. The exploitation results in an oppressive regime that encourages slave-like labor from the illiterate animals. By the end of the book, the commandments are all modified with the last commandment reading, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell adds great depth to the notion of education being an indispensable and equalizing instrument. His novel proves that education is a key element for economic and human development, yet it is very unfortunate that present-day education is plagued with the same inequalities that perpetuated in “Animal Farm”. In a preview of the upcoming World Bank report entitled, “Educational Mobility Around the World”, the empirical evidence is measured in two ways: Absolute Mobility and Relative Mobility. Absolute Mobility measures the extent to which the living standards of current millennials are greater than the previous generation, whereas Relative Mobility measures the extent to which an individual’s position on the income ladder is independent of the position of his/her parents.

Mobility from the bottom of the economic ladder to the top indicates a society’s ability to move out of poverty. Be that as it may, income mobility from the bottom quintile has declined while the persistence of privilege for those at the top has increased. According to the report, this reality is especially dominant in developing countries, whereby 11 of the 15 economies in the bottom decile are located in Africa.

This lack of mobility is concerning since it correlates with high rates of inequality and poverty. This rising trend is particularly harmful in developing countries, where long-term prospects are diminished due to low intergenerational mobility and limited opportunities for families living in poverty. Unfortunately, the lack of relative mobility can also erode innovation from the young and bustling African demographic. This occurs because the inequalities that prevail in these economies generate labor markets that reward the advantages of a privileged background over knowledge.

Charlote demonstrating how the newly implemented OraQuick HIV self-screening kit works. (The kit looks for antibodies in the oral fluid collected from a swab of your gums.)

As Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Although this may be true, the lack of education makes it difficult to escape the scourge of poverty. Customs in certain societies are also motivated to continue for generations, making it even more difficult to attain an education. In my continent, boys are often not sent to school because they are required to herd cattle, whereas girls are subjected to child marriage at tender ages and are forced to terminate their education. The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1959 pledges that “Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give, and that this entails special protection…” Because of this, it is then inhumane that girls aged 12 to 15 are forced into marriage. Given the age disparity, the imbalance of power in the relationship, and the high frequency of forced and unprotected sex, this puts them at risk of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.

Wits RHI, a leading African research institute focusing on sexual and reproductive health, has conducted a large proportion of their HIV research for women who have borne the brunt of the HIV epidemic due to their circumstances. Driven by the firm belief that quality health should be available to all, the institute facilitates a Mobile Clinic project. As a volunteer for the Mobile Clinic, I travel to Johannesburg and educate communities about the latest research programs implemented by the institute.

As effectively demonstrated by the report, one can confirm that the symbiosis between educational attainment and the transformation of an economy exists. Young people are the world’s most dynamic human resources. Therefore the prospect of losing a generation of young people who could be cultivating the economic and social capital of their countries, but lack of the skills to do so, is one that we should refuse to let happen.

This post is a part of a series on intergenerational mobility hosted by Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (FAF) in support of the World Bank’s #EndPoverty campaign. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FAF or the World Bank. To see all posts in the series, click here.


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