Ethiopia: 182 out of 184, What?

By MeKonnen H. Birru, PhD
Mental Health Professor at Fortis College and author of a national best seller ‘Deep in True Self’

No skill is more crucial to the future of a child, or to a democratic and prosperous society, than literacy.
Los Angeles Times

A few years ago I had a schizophrenic patient at the Harris County Psychiatric Center in Houston, Texas. He was a young man in his mid-30s. It was early morning right after breakfast I remember. I was doing my rotation and saw him sitting at the corner alone, but talking. He was holding a piece of paper. I approached him slowly; people with this psychiatric disorder do not like surprises because their perception is distorted so they may attack you.

Anyway, I walked slowly to give him time and he did notice me. Close by I asked what he was doing. He said, “I am in a meeting as you see and discussing with these gentlemen to buy this hospital. You see I am offering them this two million dollar check and I don’t think they agree. I think it is more than enough.”  He showed me the piece of paper while he was talking. For him the paper is the check and that was his reality; hence, he is in a psychiatric center. As a mental health expert I know what he meant was real business to him. However, the reason why I write this today is not to tell you about him but what reminded me of him a couple of days ago.

Last Monday I saw the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report on literacy rate among world nations. To tell you the truth it shocked me. In the last few years I have been hearing and reading the renaissance of great Ethiopia and all of a sudden we are still lagging behind  lagging behind Rwanda, Djibouti, Sudan, Angola, Eritrea, Burundi, Haiti, Somalia, and so many others in terms of literacy!? Who is telling the truth here? Don’t we have so many universities? Don’t we have fulfilling the millennium goal in terms of education? So, what happened?  I think either the UNDP or the Ethiopian Government has schizophrenia?


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