Liberating human potential through literacy

Guyana Chronicle
July 21, 1998

ONCE again the Baha'is are kindling the flames of enlightenment and understanding with their well-organised On the Wings of Words programme. Through this series of workshops, scores of youths and adults are shown various methods of helping others to literacy, thereby dispelling the dark terrors of the written word in the minds of the illiterate and ushering them into an unexplored realm of knowledge, thought, and the comprehension of symbols.

This year, not only have participants come from almost every Region of Guyana, but there are persons from North America and territories of the Caribbean. They have all come with the same objective. That is, to learn about the various methods of imparting literacy and a facility of the language to those who are limited in social intercourse and self-development because they lack the ability to read and write and express themselves.

The Baha'i programme is most laudable since it is designed to help those children and adults who, for economic and other reasons, were denied the opportunity to acquire a basic education, and who, because of this lack, find it difficult to access skills training or to utilise the normal channels of everyday communication.

What makes the literacy project of the Baha'is special is the fact that along with teaching the mechanics of reading, facilitators help their charges to develop a spiritual and moral consciousness. The Baha'is fervently believe that the acquisition of literacy and education without a corresponding spiritual and moral awakening makes for a one-sided approach to life, which approach can be almost counter-productive.

While we do not wish to enter into any argument about the importance of moral values in the education process, we most earnestly wish to record out appreciation of the Baha'is' strategy to take the teaching of reading and writing to the uttermost parts of this country through the expedient of facilitators working in their own communities.

Theirs is an effective scheme and one which is worthy of support by the Ministry of Education and all Government and Private Sector agencies.

The person who cannot read or write is handicapped socially and is therefore forced to depend on others to write letters, fill out simple forms and to read and interpret for them even the label on a bottle of jam. In an extreme situation, the illiterate person may unwittingly endanger his or her own life.

Unable to unlock the symbols of the written word, that person is cut off from the rest of humanity in all but the most basic of activities. As Nadine Gordimer once said, the condition of illiterate man is a deprivation of the intellect by which persons are "condemned to plod through their lives at the lowest level of human consciousness".

By rescuing persons from a state of illiteracy, the Baha'is are beginning a process of transformation by which youths and adults, armed with the skills of reading and writing, can enter and enjoy the world of knowledge and ideas, and learn of the myriad cultural practices that make this world such an infinitely wonderful place.