Who is Literate, Illiterate or Ill-literate in South Sudan?

When I saw Babby Tabby (my first born) crying to read a book titled: ‘Answers to your marriage’, it generated in me this poem, which has become part and parcel of my talent scouting through USTASS and The Little Doves Choir:
Poem 153
Talent is a slippery sleeper.
Unless you wake him up,
He’ll less wake you up.
You’re thereby to ignore,
He is there but to snore.
Like your unfertilized son,
He is your one fossilized sun;
He can forever in you slumber.
To best discover your talent,
First uncover what’s latent.
Reap thus your talent apple:
The industry is simple but ample;
By interchanging L with T in LaTent,
You end up harvesting T and L in TaLent.

One of my readers once told me, “Even if you are tired, we want to read, please, write.” So, my good reader (hence good leader), here you are; I write. I write for a fan, hence for fun; not for any fund. Of course, there is no money in writing in South Sudan today. No need for taxing one’s brain when we can just do the walking on the flakes of fertile soil underneath our feet and do the talking about the lakes of versatile oil beneath our field: all these for minting cash on! However, the oil being thousands of kilometers in the heart of the earth and the soil being the skin thereof, how do we extract cash out of them now, right now? We know South Sudan for the last six years of the Interim Period, which has indeed been an extreme period, of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), that is still a compressive peace argument, is now dominantly independent on our own wills but predominantly dependent on a cash cow that grazes in the south but is milked in the north. So what? We need knowledge. We want technical knowhow, not tactical know-who.

To those who are less ‘uncled’ in the position of free oil money, let us join hands not in an opposition for money but in a hunt for an alternative way of survival. As for me and my family, I have chosen to write; to write pretty petty things for a living, the best way to access that money from them. And I am doing this around the University of Juba (more info later when I invite the public for that business). Knowing the fact that there is little knowledge enhancement and talent development in South Sudan today, even among the youth, whose greater population is still in schools, talent is neither being discovered nor is knowledge being recovered.

This has historical background. It lies, still, in the aforementioned fact that the marginalized peoples of South Sudan have just discovered that they are ranking high among the richest in the world in mineral deposits in their land; but there are even more potential riches not yet explored and exploited—the talent deposits in their hand, especially among the youth and children. Fossilized over centuries of multi-national colonial succession, wars and ignorance, the varieties of talents in the South Sudanese youths are now ripe but not fully prepared for tapping. Following the independence in 2011, there is an urgent need and demand to excavate the hibernating wealth in the surviving young generation of South Sudan. This must be done through education. But what is going on at the moment in our virgin republic warrants my intentional ridiculing as ‘eatducation’!

South Sudan is a unique country. We are her unique children. It is by literacy the least country in the world, but – let them talk – you will think we are the only country where God puts people in school inside their mothers’ womb and graduates them just after three semesters, say, 9 months from Uterine University. Or if not, how come that a leader or his second generates a profile that runs across 100 pages without any mention that he started his literacy in X Primary school, Y secondary school or Z College? Yes, we are born to serve or lead once an age has come, and it culturally, our age loaded with sage, a kind of wisdom not yearned, learned and earned from the books. With us, nothing is bookish. We quote figures and write features from our heads, because we know. Yes, we know. Like Jehovah, we are very omniscient, an all-knowing folk, who believes in folklore as the basis of knowledge and cherish leadership by eldership.

What about Literacy, Illiteracy and Ill-literacy?

On December 12, 2006, I headed to Juba with over 100 students from Kampala and staged this literacy campaign, the time I composed most of the poems attached below.

Sorry, I may not define the terms but you ought to find and refine them your own way in this piece of mine, which is just for the peace of my mind— perhaps, of yours, too. As I am tapping and typing these words, I am reading our newspapers and watching TV at the same time. Here, some screen script is running on SSTV (nicknamed conference television) and what I see there is not worthy of copying herein lest I am sentenced to critical pessimism by my readers and to political optimism by my leaders. But before anybody questions in me lack of ‘neo-nationalism’ (fanatical love for one’s country), if you ever passed near the wall of the University of Juba, the ones running along to the roundabout of Dr. Garang Mausoleum, you would see: TRESPASSERS WILL BE PERSECUTED! shouts the signpost. Apart from questioning whether any trespasser or land grabber, for that matter, like Freedom Hall’, has been ‘persecuted’ (right word: PROSECUTED), should we blame our secondary school children and some university students for asking in Arabic their questions in public debates and conferences conducted in English? If the University of Juba cannot differentiate between ‘Persecution and prosecution’, then I am afraid, we need literacy campaign to start from the apex of our temple of knowledge.

Literacy rate in South Sudan is dishearteningly low. Our RSS Commission for Statistics puts it at 27%, and defines it as ‘the ability to read, write and understand simple sentences in any language. And just as women are more than men in this new republic, men are more literate then women by 40% compared to 16%. By the way, were you counted? However, Ustaz Kuol Atem Bol, Director General of Alterantive Education System, interjected an alternative figure during the World Literacy Day celebrated in Juba on September 8, this year. “We are the last illiterate country in the whole world, next to Niger, which is 60% illiterate. So our target is to raise our level by eat least 20% to catch up with Niger,” the D/G was quoted as saying. So, if so, then we are still lingering at 80%!

Sorry, I thought I was literate! Was the title I gave my piece that I wrote in the weekly I used to edit in 2009, The Star. I was not being satirical but I am really illiterate if we go by the definition above. How? If you send me to look for my names among 10 names spelled in Arabic, I would lose it, if the condition is given so. I swear, I would not identify even my first letter ‘J’ among those grass-like small structures they call letters in Arabic. Only God knows how ‘J’ is pronounced and what it looks like. The rest of the story of how I fell victim and also felt the victim of illiteracy is well narrate in that testimony on the ‘My State Diary’ column titled: Sorry I thought I was Literate! Please, download the link below to read this emotional PDF exposition, but do not let it distract you from completing this page on which I will elaborated the systems of ‘Ill-literacy’ and how an ill-literate person looks like. Click this code containing the letters and numbers here to download as you continue reading the rest of the story: JST0406009



Below is a free version of my idle book: The Black Christs of Africa. Chapter 11 gives rise to the title of this parer: ILLITERATE OR ILL-LITERATE?  as copied here:


Poem 124




Y   r   U


Y   m   I

– not right to write?

– not ready to read?


Y    r    U


Y    m   I


unable to:

– get education?

– give education?


Y   m   I


Y    r   U

– illiterate?

– ill-literate?



Ignorance and illiteracy are obviously not synonymous; even illiterate masses can cast their ballots with intelligence, once they are informed.

William Orville Douglas.


Poem 125




Out of womb come we vacant,

Or with matter subject to recant or decant;

And if timely done not so,

It makes us as follows sow:


For those illiterate

Will spread ideas akin to all illegitimacy.

For those ill-literate

Will sow seeds of discord and evil literacy.


The aristocrats, elites, and those who are literate

Should  resist being egocentric but be a little racy.

And they who are in one: illiterate and ill-literate

will suffer their innate disability called illiteracy.



Perhaps the most fateful gift an evil genius could bestow upon our times is knowledge without skill.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 – 1827)

Swiss educational reformer.


Poem 126




Dear Abook,

I live

T’ love

U know.

But now

am in love

Wi’ the lib

And the lab.

I am hooked

To the  books,

Fully  booked up;

Hooked up by books.

Sorry for no love letter.

I promise to love you later.

Never ever mind being called sassy.

Bullies here draw and label me silly sissy,

library bookworm, laboratory hookworm,

an old mummy’s boy and ladies’ scarecrow.

But am proud to be the ladies’ scarce crow.

It’s their day to make me their boy-toy

but every dog has its own day.

Life isn’t all straight points,

…crooked like my poems.

You know now, I, right

from old Adam and Eve,

my apparent biblical parents,

all the way down to Waa and Maa,

my transparent biological parents,

am the one and only descendant

to learn how to read and write.

My mind is booked by a book,

my heart hooked by Abook.

Both are totally throttled

Into this lady-like bottle

In a win-win battle.



He felt about books as doctors feel about medicines, or managers about plays—cynical but hopeful.

Rose Macaulay (1881 – 1958)

British poet, novelist, and essayist.


Poem 126




My goal

Is you my girl,

That I’ve decided to marry.

It’s you Mary,

For whom I’m here

Only this year.

Next year,

You’re two,

And me with you, too,

Will make a family,

To stay forever firmly.


O my darling, Jean,

Before I join,

Is it all

For which we fall?

Listen to my wry version

Of our short-range dry vision.

If life is all about marriage,

Then it’s all but miscarriage.

Oh, never be discouraged,

For I am fully encouraged.


Then let’s all gather

Our strengths together

While still around in uniform,

And say it aloud in unison,

That we’re here to learn,

After that to earn,

And then to wait,

So that we wed,

For the right reason,

At the rite season.



Never go to your high school reunion pregnant or they will think that is all you have done since you graduated. 

Erma Bombeck


Poem 127




When I was a sophomore,

It was like climbing a sycamore,

For I had no choice but to suffer more.


When an advisor helped me to quit,

Onto his face I wanted to spit

And have it all split.


So I had to become lean,

But clean. What here do I mean,

In order to the rest not to become mean?


A testimony told

Is as a ceremony sold;

To amateurs it shall unfold.


Omnipresent looms thy adversity

On thy rung of rank up—to the university,

For thy friend Fred or foe Joe are but of universality.


Be it a program or a problem,

It inevitably bears an anniversary emblem,

Via which graduates even a Man from Bethlehem.


Therefore, a compassed campus student

Must not pass through the university like a rodent,

Rather, the university must pass through him to be prudent.



Ignorance, arrogance, and racism have bloomed as Superior Knowledge in all too many universities.

Alice Walker (1944 – )

U.S. novelist and poet.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, “A Talk: Convocation 1972”


Poem 128




What a hell-

burn me live—

do you?


Cook me alive –

in open oven –

damn you!


Send me raw –

to opaque haven –

dare you?


You fry my cells into paint

You boil my blood in vein

You roast my flesh unto faint

You bake my bones in vain


Oh my skin, a soft-hot flat iron!

My head, a fairy Tower of Babel

My brain, a fiery shower of bubble

My tongue, a ferry shovel of babble

My hair, a furry towel of bauble

Oh I’ve caught fire; I’m burning up!


Yes, civilised witches divine fever +ve

Yet, computerized watches define malaria –ve

Guessed fever—Guest fever.

Of course, the cause—

Course works; curse works!

Exams fever: ghost fever!



One of the major instruments of torture in collegiate education is the course examination… The night before the examination you cram the notes into your head. Next morning you enter a room heavy with the atmosphere of suspicion. You leave all notes and books in the hall, and you write on questions the answers to which you will have forgotten within a week, answers which in ordinary life no one in his right mind would ask you to remember because the information is available in reference books where it belongs.

Roger W. Holmes,

What Every Freshman Should Know.

Quoted from ‘Reading Literature’, by Satin


Poem 129




They drive

And drink till dusk,

While I walk and strive,

But drink their dust,

That causes me artificial blindness.


I apply for a line post

Of an office messenger

But fail a simple interview

By my son’s age office manager;

Forcing  me to read a signpost,

He learns of my artificial blindness.


Then he gives me a stationery,

Not knowing my mind is stationary,

Without even any intervention from the dictionary.

For I had not benefited from the light of a missionary.

That is why I joined and became a reactionary,

‘Cause of my artificial blindness.


Into a blind deal of hazard,

I, the so-called lazy lizard,

With some paper wizard,

Risk becoming a witness,

Minding less my weakness,

Which becomes my wickedness,

I naively convey my own arrest warrant

To the prison, that is now my homeland,

‘Cause of my artificial blindness.


To this world have been brought by me

Many moths with mouths and blank heads

That I cannot afford to feed, fill with blankets.

They yawn and yearn and yell at poor me;

I bite my finger and curse our modern gods

For my man-made poverty in property,

Descending uninterrupted from my ancestry

‘Cause of their original artificial blindness.



In our time, the curse is monetary illiteracy, just as inability to read plain print was the curse of earlier centuries.

Ezra Pound


Poem 130




Like the legendary Rip van Winkle,

Who slept… to wake up with a wrinkle,

From the onset to the upset of the revolution,

Two decades of off-stage hibernation with evolution,

My generation’s fellow went fallow in a literary vacuum,

My land went fallow, from green meadows to pale decorum.


For over a double decade of sleep,

The internal system spiraled down deep,

Dipped into the abyss of illusion and hallucination,

In despair and disrepair…lost in dilapidation, oh my nation!

What do you do to a dog-eared class-roof or to a twenty-year absentee?

How to cancel a system of dog-eared books and counsel a literary thirsty returnee?



The American Revolution occurs while Rip is asleep, and when he awakes and comes back down the mountain, the world in which he lived has forever changed. The buildings have changed, the architecture is different and his home is abandoned. His wife is gone, as are most of the people he knew during his life.

Thesis Statements



Poem 131




Our northland

A land learned

wry and dry

polled and polished

literal desert

Our northfolk

The Red and read

Dominant remnants

In a literate desert

Our southland

A land unlearned

A green and blue

littered desert

Our southfolk

Black or blank

bald and bold

In a literary desert



Here we stand, infants overblown/Poised between two civilizations /Finding the balance irksome /Itching for something to happen /To tip us one way or the other /Groping in the dark  for a helping hand/I’m tired O my God am tired /I’m tired of hanging in the middle way /But where can I go?

Mabel Segun