Combating illiteracy in Guyana
By Valerie Joseph
Guyana Chronicle
August 21, 2003

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GUYANA’s literacy rate continues to decline alarmingly even as the country fights to maintain some form of economic growth. But can we have positive economic growth with a population showing a 60 per cent literacy rating? It is this reality that promoted the formation of the Guyana Forum for Lifelong Learning in 2000, when adult educators, together with providers of adult and non-formal education and other stakeholders came together to launch this umbrella organisation.

The Forum intends, through its various programmes and projects, to promote the empowerment of Guyanese through lifelong education and training. Its objectives include:

· Supporting organisations, agencies and institutions involved in providing life-long learning;

· Promoting quality control in the delivery of Adult Education (AE) programmes;

· Promoting human resource development among AE providers;

· Initiating and supporting research and training in this area; and

· Advising on AE policies.

Since its inception some work has already been done, as the Forum has sponsored and organised training for AE tutors, and has begun liaising with the University of Guyana to start a Certificate Programme in Adult Education, among other initiatives.

The Forum at this point is concentrating on the AE providers to ensure that they are recognised by the Government in particular, and given the help and support they need. This includes provision of continuous training in programme delivery to enable relevancy in programme content, in approaches in terms of attracting the persons who need this type of education, and in methodology.

A series of conferences has been held recently in Regions Two, Six and Ten and will be held in Region Four shortly, to glean from providers their thinking about the literacy problem in the respective Regions, and the strategies for dealing with them.

From the information received a strategy document will be developed and later presented to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for consideration. The document will seek to persuade the Government, through the MOE, of their need to recognise the Forum and its members as official partners in the nation’s fight against illiteracy. No one agency or even the Government can tackle this problem on its own. Total, as well as functional illiteracy, affects the entire nation, leading to abject poverty and a sense of social powerlessness. It is therefore incumbent upon us all to cooperate with each other if we are to reduce the levels of illiteracy in any significant way.

The Forum recognises the need for a holistic approach to the question of educating those who are seen as illiterate. Paulo Freire in his work among Brazilian peasants, so many years ago, showed us that we cannot separate education from everyday living. So bringing persons from a state of illiteracy to literacy means not teaching them to read and write in a vacuum, but more importantly, showing them how their ability to learn will enable them to use what they have, where they have it, to bring about positive changes in their lives. And this is what the Forum wants to see happen throughout Guyana as AE providers use approaches that will give to the adult learners a sense of self-worth, a desire to be the best they can be and the skills to enable them to move from where they are to where they want to be.

The work of the Forum, which is a not-for-profit organisation, needs the support not only of the Government, but also the Private sector whose success depends on the availability of a functionally literate workforce; the general public and all those adult and non-formal education providers who are not yet on board. Support the Forum’s work and assist in bringing about meaningful change in our nation by 2010. As Martin Carter says so well

This I have learnt

Today a speck

Tomorrow a hero

Hero or monster

You are consumed!

Like a jig

Shakes the loom.

Like a web

Is spun the pattern

All are involved!

All are consumed!

Let us therefore come together to rid ourselves of this scourge in our nation. Be an active supporter of the Guyana Forum for Lifelong Learning, be a signatory to the National Literacy Campaign as we promote awareness throughout the land.

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