Guyana Chronicle
October 7, 2002

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THREE separate events last week were linked by their foci and concerns for children’s literacy and their successful primary and secondary education. The first event was a three-day workshop to improve literacy among Form One students of Regions Five and Six conducted at the Berbice High School. At that forum, which was initiated by the Secondary Schools Reform Programme (SSRP), Director Dr Kenneth Hunte urged teachers to teach and use standard English in their education delivery and to desist from the use of Creolese, which, in his opinion, hinders the development of literacy in children. Dr Hunte also admonished teachers to address the problem of reading in order to help students in the learning process, and to stop blaming the Primary schools or the social origins of the children for their inability to read. “You have to give them the skill to enable them to succeed in development,” Dr Hunte is reported as saying.

The second event was a television programme called ‘Through the Eyes of Women’ and aired on Channel Six on Wednesday evening. On this programme, a panel of discussants explored the current state of low literacy, its effects on human development and ways in which children and young people could be encouraged to attain literacy, numeracy and a level of education to ensure that they are capable of being contributing members of society. The brilliant educator Dr Brian O’Toole, who was a member of the panel, spoke feelingly of the methods of teaching and learning, which inculcate in persons the spirit of enquiry and also encourage youthful minds to seek more learning and a broad understanding of the world. He referred to Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator, who decried the ‘banking’ system of education, which demands that students ingest what is taught them, and then routinely regurgitate what they have learnt at examination time. Dr O’Toole also lamented the current media trend of focusing on the top students, when results of the CXC, CAPE and GCE are disclosed. There is not a line, he lamented, of the thousands of other students, who also wrote the examinations and may have done creditably well given the social and other conditions they encountered. This programme was interspersed with segments of a documentary titled on the ‘On Wings of Words’. It is a successful ongoing project sponsored by the Varqa Foundation and transposed in modular form to several other countries around the world.

The third event was the Sixth National Award Ceremony held at the National Cultural Centre on Wednesday evening to honour outstanding students at this year’s Primary and Secondary school levels. At that function, President Bharrat Jagdeo congratulated the successful students and assured the gathering that the Guyana Government remains committed to further improving the education sector. Addressing the event also was Dr Carla Barnett, Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM, whose impassioned words illuminated the importance of education for personal development as well as for future leadership, nation building and greater regional understanding. Dr Barnett compared aspects of learning a generation ago with what obtains today and encouraged students to read as much as they can. The past generation did not have the uses of calculators and computers. Back then, students had to depend a great deal on the written word in which they engaged their minds and imaginations to a great extent. She admonished them to become acquainted with the new tools of learning such as computers and related forms of information technology, since this is the wave of the future and they would be left behind if they do not understand and master this purveyor of knowledge and information.

In an age characterised by an explosion of knowledge and information through the wizardry of computers and the almost infinite Internet, parents and guardians have a responsibility to encourage children to love books, to seek knowledge as a key for unlocking the codes and mysteries of the universe and to develop the critical faculty by which they could evaluate, analyse and appreciate the ideas that can help to make the world a better place.