According to Unesco’s standards, Bolivia is among the countries that have managed to eradicate illiteracy – lowering the rate of it to below 4% of the population. This outstanding feat has happened over thirteen years – from 13.28% in 2001 to 3.8% in 2014, when the most recent census was conducted. Officials claim that this is all thanks to the “Yes, I can” programme, which is an adult literacy campaign, launched in Bolivia 10 years ago.
Teaching adults these basic skills is so important to do, especially when they live in poor, rural areas like these students – where they don’t have easy access to schools for their children and so these adults are the primary teachers for their kids. Making sure parents and grandparents are educated has shown itself to be significant; an educated generation gives way for the next to be even brighter.
The students are taught basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as some science and geography, too. All of this has come about in part due to left-wing Bolivian President, Evo Morales, who made the eradication of illiteracy one of his main priorities when he came into office in 2006. Cuba and Venezuela were called on for help, and Bolivia then received teachers, teaching materials and financial aid from the two countries respectively. With that help, the second phase of the literacy programme, “Yes, I can carry on” was able to be put into effect: giving the students another two years of learning maths, literacy and natural sciences after their initial three to six months.
This programme was originally developed in Cuba, by educator Leonela Relys – in which communities are taught literacy with the help of audio visual aids.
One of these educators is named Keyla Guzman Velez, and lives by the largest food market in La Paz, Rodriguez market. Here she realised that the woman who worked there weren’t able to do simple maths, nor read or write. They were also not willing to attend classes after work, as their jobs began at 5am and wouldn’t end until 7 at night. This meant that for these women to be taught, Ms Guzman would have to adapt to their needs – which she did amazingly well.
“You have to understand these women’s routine. They get up at dawn, they often have to leave their children behind at home, then they work all day and when they get home they still have to do the housework.”
Instead of cutting her losses and moving onto another group, Ms Guzman asked each of the women what time would be the best time to stop by their stall, and then did a daily round of the market with a small whiteboard to teach them.
This sort of course gives adults in Bolivia a second chance to achieve their goals and dreams. With dedication, the “Yes, I can” programme has students practising their reading daily, as well as writing and simple sums – they continue to understand longer texts and complex sentences as well as multiply and divide.
There are a lot of amazing, massive things happening the world right now – but the little things matter, too. Teaching adults to read and write has an enormous effect on their lives, and it means that a whole new generation just coming into the world has a better chance at being literate, too.
You can find out more about Bethany on her author page.