June 10, 2005
Literacy, making a difference

The National Literacy Crusade finally got off the ground on Monday of this week with the commencement of the programme in Zone 4, which includes the South Windward and East St. George constituencies.

It may be no coincidence that the first zone to be launched is based in Choppins, home territory of the Minister of Education, Clayton Burgin, a veteran adult educator.{{more}}

Training for facilitators in Zone 3, which includes Marriaqua, Greggs, Lowmans and Lauders also began this week. Progress in the other areas of the country seems to be slow however. Speaking on the adult education radio program this week, Assistant Co-ordinator of the National Literacy Crusade, Frances Clarke-Palmer, commented that the slow pace of implementation in certain areas was because of a shortage of volunteers to conduct the programs. Interestingly, she made the point that learners were registering in large numbers and were eager to go; but not so the teachers.

It is an excellent sign that our citizens are recognizing the importance of upgrading their reading, speaking, writing and computational skills. The numbers registering suggest that the shame and fear of being ridiculed is not as strong as the desire to move forward.

The move by Government towards Universal Secondary Education undoubtedly has had an effect on people’s attitude to education and learning. The functionally illiterate among us recognize that the increased enrolment in secondary schools will mean that in a few years they will be marginalized even further, and job options open to them now, will very soon disappear.

As a nation, the literacy campaign could not have come sooner. We encounter the functionally illiterate among us everyday. They struggle to figure out how to use the ATM at the bank, and with filling out forms at the airport. In the workplace they cost companies thousands of dollars because clearly marked instructions are ignored. With the CSME upon us, we really have no choice. But beyond ensuring that our adults are able to function more effectively as citizens, we must not underestimate the importance of literacy to good parenting.

The experts say that when parents are illiterate, their children do not do as well in school. Illiterate parents are unable to reinforce the lessons taught in school, and there is no role model in the home of a parent who reads. Further, there are no books, newspapers or magazines in the home to stimulate the child. So the millions we are investing in our children will be better spent when we ensure that the parents too are taken care of educationally.

So the call is being made for volunteer teachers and motivators to come forward. Volunteers need not be formally trained teachers, but anyone with a good basic education who has the time, temperament and willingness to be a part of this national crusade. The recently retired, housewives, graduates of the Community College, workers looking for a way to occupy themselves for a few hours in the afternoon are all good candidates. If we leave this up to Clayton Burgin, Hugh Wyllie, Frances Clarke-Palmer and Albert Edwards, the crusade is doomed to failure. Now is the time to volunteer, it is time to make a difference.