Rhoda Arrindell guest speaker for St Maarten’s Rotary Club’s Literacy Month

What can we do to eradicate illiteracy from our midst?” asked linguist and educator Rhoda Arrindell at the recent meeting of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten Mid-Isle.

Businessman Louis Wever said that The Rotarians invited “a very good speaker, Dr. Arrindell, who updated us all about literacy in our country St. Maarten and where we stand now.” And Rhoda Arrindell had wasted no time in pointing to the club’s eagerness “to do something in this area” of “literacy as a right and a responsibility.”

Given your track record, I am convinced that you too can make a huge difference in helping to combat illiteracy on our island,” said Dr. Arrindell in her speech. The Mid-Isle Rotary Club also brings together business and professional leaders for community service projects. July is the chapter’s Literacy Month.

I would suggest … a pilot project that you could start in a district such as Cay Bay, Middle Region, St. Peters or Dutch Quarter, where I believe the problem may be most acute. I will be most willing to volunteer my assistance in designing such a program, should you need me,” said Dr. Arrindell, who has been active for nearly 30 years with volunteer and professional work in education, culture, conferencing, and sports organization.

Dr. Rhoda Arrindell (L) presents Mid-Isle Rotary Club President Wayne Wilkie with a copy of her new book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin.

Dr. Rhoda Arrindell (L) presents Mid-Isle Rotary Club President Wayne Wilkie with a copy of her new book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin.

While sharing World Bank and the territory’s Census figures with the Rotarians and their guests, Arrindell said that, “Statistics for St. Martin (South) are unfortunately hard to find, but my experience in the field points to the fact that illiteracy – both adult, that is over 25 years old, and youth, from 15 – 24 years old – is at an unacceptable level.

“In fact, according to the 1992 Census figures for our half of the island, the number of illiterates at that time was 1,938 out of a total of 22,631 persons who were not attending school,” said Dr. Arrindell.

In my opinion, even if that figure were to remain the same today, it would mean we have to close to 2,000 people who cannot read or write in our midst. That would account for almost three seats in Parliament if all of them were able to vote in the coming elections! I will allow you to draw your own conclusions from that,” said Dr. Arrindell.

Rotarian Wever said that Dr. Arrindell’s information, which went further than the usual definition on the subject, was “a very good update for everybody.”

According to Arrindell, “Literacy today is not limited to the ability to read and write alone. There are various other forms of literacy … foremost among them being digital or computer literacy. Add to that financial literacy, science literacy, health literacy and even emotional literacy and … low levels of literacy, and by extension, of education in general, constitute an impediment to the economic and social development of a country in this fast-changing Information Age, in which technology rules.”

Veronica Jansen-Webster, the Rotary chapter’s PR officer, said that, “Dr. Arrindell enlightened the club members and guests present about the state of literacy on the island. She also presented a copy of her latest book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin, to Mr. Wayne Wilkie, the president of the club and provided another copy, which was raffled amongst the members present” at the July 15 dinner meeting.

Following the meeting, Rhoda Arrindell asked her publisher, HNP, to contribute three sets of the pioneerseries booklets to the Mid-Isle Rotary for the club’s planned literacy presentations to schools and the mental health foundation. The junior scholastic booklets are about “non-traditional” nation builders of St. Martin, Saba, and St. Eustatius, said HNP president Jacqueline Sample.

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