#Ebola Free as Literacy Saves the Day

What does it mean to be literate today? Today, literacy includes developing the skills to navigate digital media, exploring ideas from global sources, searching for answers using information given by experts and the ability to sift through many streams of information to suit one’s purpose whether social, cultural or academic. The primary sense of ‘literacy‘ represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning and critical interpretation of a written, printed or electronic text.

I’d like you to be aware that the Ebola virus was contracted by people who were literate. 

I have listened and read in earnest, the many theories postulated as to how Nigeria was able to control and/or contain the #EbolaVirus. It continues to be surprising, how the most important factor/s that influenced our ‘success’, mostly never gets mentioned on tables of discussions globally.

This text gives some insight – Nigeria has more doctors and hospitals per person than most African countries. It also has teams in place to investigate outbreaks of diseases like cholera and Lassa fever. These tools were simply redirected. A command centre financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fight polio was used to co-ordinate the Ebola response. Experts from America’s Centres for Disease Control (CDC) were already training 100 Nigerian doctors in epidemiology, so 40 of them led the process of tracing Sawyer’s contacts. The government worked with airlines to find people whom he could have infected. Then health workers repeatedly took the temperature of nearly 900 possible contacts, paying them more than 18,500 visits in total.’ Read more here .

My surprise lies mostly in how little, people know about our systems and cultural inclinations, in spite of the numerous findings and research done in this case. Most fail to dissect the importance of our sociocultural ‘goings-on’ in controlling the spread of the virus vis-a-vis the vast number of ‘literate‘ people surrounding the part of Nigeria (Lagos state) where the index #Ebola case was recorded. 

Let’s explain.

1. Ebola came into Lagos state, the state with the highest number of literate people in Nigeria, a multicultural and diverse state with a high number of upwardly mobile people. If by some streak of bad luck, the virus began to spread in one of our remote villages in Nigeria, I’m afraid the story would be markedly different today. Certainly, before any information gets to authorities, the virus might have spread beyond some control. Simply because, there would have been a great sense of denial about the viciousness of the virus as seen in other countries, somewhat due to the apparent little knowledge about its deadly and highly infectious nature in those remote areas.

2. We have a culture of respect for authority. In most situations, many will give up some human right to adhere to instructions given as it comes from either traditional, religious or governmental authorities. So when the government demanded for a certain number of people to stay quarantined at home, it is common knowledge that most would have adhered. Yet, we recorded a few people who escaped surveillance as in the case Mr Olu-Ibukun Koye, the man who fled to Port Harcourt to seek help from an assuming Dr. Samuel Enemuo..(read about it here). 

In all this, because we were dealing with ‘literate’ #ebola victims in Nigeria, again we were able to save the day. The seeming culture of respect for authority would have brought little results if it were not for these literate individuals. Yet, our sociocultural convictions thrived as most people did their best to adhere to the state government’s instructions that were widely publicized; while many included some disturbing actions that were not from the authorities e.g. the ‘hot salt-water bath’. One wonders!


The global call for every country to do more to increase the level of literacy in our communities, villages, towns, cities and all over the country is a duty all must share in…. (click International Literacy Day to read more).

The day was saved with #Ebola and we are free for now. Will the day be saved for our large number of unskilled and illiterate hands, which by default makes up Nigeria? Time to think global, but act local.

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  1. One thing is clear from this read: Education Must be facilitated and promoted on all fronts… from the top to the bottom, a good shake is needed. I love the way the role of literacy played in curbing the Ebola virus was comprehensively outlined. I love also the subtle ‘ginger’ I suddenly now feel. like surely there is something even I can do too. I imagine other readers will feel the same.
    Really… well done!!!
    Thanks for doing your bit through this medium.

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