2001 June | Part A, Section C – Summary

Read the following passage carefully and answer, in your own words as far as possible, the question that follows.

Poverty! Can anyone who has not really been poor know what poverty is? I really doubt it. How can anyone who enjoys three square meals a day explain what poverty means? Indeed can someone who has two full meals a day claim to know poverty? Perhaps, one begins to grasp the full meaning of poverty when one struggles really hard to have one miserable meal in twenty-four hours. Poverty and hunger are cousins, the former always dragging along the latter wherever he chooses to go.

If you were wearing a suit, or a complete traditional attire, and you look naturally rotund in your apparel, you cannot understand what poverty entails. Nor can you have a true feel of poverty if you have some good shirts and pairs of trousers, never mind that all these are casual wear. Indeed, if you can change one dress into another, and these are all you can boast of, you are not really poor. A person begins to have a true feel of what poverty means when, apart from the tattered clothes on his body, he doesn’t have any other; not even calico to keep away the cold at night.

Let us face it, can anyone who has never slept outside, in the open, appreciate the full, harsh import of homelessness? Yet that is what real, naked poverty is. He who can lay claim to a house, however humble, cannot claim to be poor. Indeed, if he can afford to rent a flat, or a room in town or city, without the landlord having cause to eject him, he cannot honestly claim to be poor. The really poor man has no roof over his head, and this is why you find him under a bridge, in a tent or simply in the vast open air.

But that is hardly all. The poor man faces the world as a hopeless underdog. In every bargain, every discussion, every event involving him and others, the poor man is constantly reminded of his failure in life. Nobody listens attentively when he makes a point, nobody accepts that his opinion merits consideration. So in most cases, he learns to accept that he has neither wisdom nor opinion.

The pauper’s lot naturally rubs off on his child who is subject not only to hunger of the body but also of the mind. The pauper lacks the resources to send his child to school. And even in communities where education is free, the pauper’s child still faces an uphill task because the hunger of the body impedes the proper nourishment of the mind.

Denied access to modern communications media, the poor child has very little opportunity to understand the concepts taught him. His mind is rocky soil on which the teacher’s seeds cannot easily germinate. Thus embattled at home and then at school, the pauper’s child soon has very little option but to drop out of school.

That is still not all. Weakened by hunger, embattled by cold and exposure to the elements, feeding on poor water and poor food, the pauper is an easy target for diseases. This is precisely why the poorest countries have the shortest life expectancies while the longest life expectancies are recorded among the richest countries. Poverty is really a disease that shortens life!


In six sentences, one for each, summarize the problems of the poor man.

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