Literacy and its importance to human development Viewpoint
By Mr. Hans Barrow
Adult Education Association of Guyana
Guyana Chronicle
September 26, 2002

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FOR years now, September 8 has been designated International Literacy Day of the United Nations through UNESCO.

In consequence of this, the Director-General of UNESCO annually sends messages about literacy from a panoramic viewpoint, not only to celebrate the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies everywhere but also to affirm the centrality of literacy within all struggles for sustainable human development.

The Director-General asserted that there are 862 million adults, of whom about two-thirds are women, whose literacy currently excludes them from full participation in society.

He gives notice that the United Nations Literacy Decade will be launched at the beginning of 2003. The aim of the decade is mainly to provide an international framework for mobilising efforts to spread the benefits of literacy as widely as possible in the years ahead.

The goal is to achieve 50 per cent improvement in level of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women.

The Adult Education Association of Guyana, Inc., M.S., (A.E.A) is perhaps the longest serving member of the National Commission of UNESCO headed by Secretary-General, Ms. Carmen Jarvis, C.C.H.

The A.E.A. essays to inform the nation annually about the status of literacy and what is being about illiteracy. This last year there has been a greater number than ever of the Guyanese population seeking help from the literacy classes conducted by the A.E.A., and other agencies involved in non-formal education.

In actual fact, many youngsters have never entered a school. Others have been slow learners, and there are several reasons for this -- poverty, poor health, lack of parental control, the economic situation and, not least of all, abysmal ignorance about the effect of illiteracy on life and living.

However, the pressures now being felt by parents are bringing to the consciousness of them all, the urgent need to have their children qualify for employment, and to earn a living.

Even hucksters realise that reading catalogues and calculating prices have taken on new importance in their efforts to survive. The ability to read, to comprehend what is read, and to calculate has never been so urgent and imperative than in these days.

Recently, much time, energy and finance have been directed to Regions Five and Six, to involve residents in education and training programmes, to contend with the new upsurge of interest manifested by these communities.

Shakespeare said, "Adversity makes strange bedfellows", and so it is that several alliances and groups have been formed with the A.E.A.'s branch as its central figure.

There is an alliance between the Regional Democratic Council and the A.E.A to promote educational and training activities and to collaborate in other areas for the development of both organisations.

Then there are Memoranda of Understanding that record linkages with Lifeline Counselling Services, Youth Challenge Guyana, the Police, the Prisons, the New Amsterdam Technical Institute and others. In fact, it seems that all agencies are alert and are getting together to fight the scourge of illiteracy and at the basic level to ensure that all are trainable and able to pursue successfully the many courses customised to meet individual needs.

In all this, good solid assistance, financial and technical, has been coming in from countries and institutions including UNICEF, UNDP, CIDA through BCCP (Building Community Capacity Projects), the British High Commission, the Japanese government and others.

In fact, the stage is set and the show has begun.

We need only cooperation, peace and mutual responsibility to further this work and build Guyana.