“Fostering Peace Through Literacy Empowerment” – Commemorating International Literacy Day, 2011
One of the most disturbing features of planet Earth at this time is the virtual assault on that peace and equilibrium which is of tremendous importance to man’s welfare. Open and continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine, uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Syria, internecine wars in parts of Africa, civil protests in England, Greece and other European Countries are the larger expression of violence which mar our peaceful existence. At the micro level, those who use the gun and other illegal weapons to exert power hold communities to ransom. In our neighbouring countries of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, States of Emergency have had to be declared to try to deal with the purveyors of violence. Peace is a most important goal of our societies.
The Barbados Association of Reading (BAR) joins with fellow Barbadians and millions of citizens across the world in commemorating International Literacy Day. The theme selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for this year’s celebrations, “Literacy and Peace”, focuses attention on the relationship between literacy and peace, that most desired equilibrium sought after by mankind . Literacy provides the foundation for lifelong learning and equips individuals with knowledge and skills to enable critical thinking and problem solving. Peace, which connotes societal equilibrium, should be desirable for every human being. The attainment of lasting peace, therefore, is a state which every individual, government and country in the world should be aspiring towards achieving and sustaining.
The Barbados Association of Reading is cognizant of the empowering nature of literacy to effect positive behavioural changes in people and supports the efforts of the government through the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development in the provision of educational opportunities from nursery to tertiary level for all citizens of Barbados. We must continue to encourage all citizens, young and old, to maximize the educational opportunities which are provided in this country in an effort to help them achieve their potential and contribute to national development. The efforts of the churches and other non-governmental organizations which offer programmes that provide educational opportunities for Barbadians must also be recognised and commended. The goal of developing citizens who view learning as a lifelong process that can secure personal advancement is everyone’s business and should always be a priority on our national agenda. We must not underestimate the importance of aggregate personal well being to the overall state of our societies and economies.
This year’s International Literacy Day theme provides us with the timely opportunity to reflect on the status of peace worldwide as well as countrywide. The reports of current states of violence and unrest which is occurring across the world and in the region does not make for comforting news. In Barbados, the recent reports of an upsurge in criminal activity and the revelation by the Commissioner of Police of statistics which highlighted an increase in the number of young people between the ages of eleven and nineteen involved in criminal activity is also caused for concern.
As the country seeks to arrest the current crime situation, solutions must be grounded in the investigation of the root causes of the criminal activity which can eventually lead to disequilibrium in the country if it is not curtailed or minimized. Societal disequilibrium can also erode the social and economic gains which a country has attained as a result of many years of hard work and sacrifice. Possible solutions to criminal activity and civil unrest must of necessity include efforts to strengthen the literacy skills of those individuals involved through the provision of structured rehabilitative programmes that provide a strong focus on strengthening literacy skills. We must continue to help all citizens to develop the ability to use language as a tool of expression and negotiation in an effort to reduce the number of instances where persons resort to the knife and the gun to help them solve life’s problems.
Literacy equips individuals with the skills and confidence to seek information which would help them make informed choices that can have a direct impact on themselves, their families and their communities. In addition, literacy provides the impetus for individuals to effectively participate in the democratic process, to have a voice in the community and to contribute to shaping national policies.
In an effort to maintain the relatively peaceful society which all Barbadians enjoy, there is a need for increased support for those citizens who are vulnerable and who feel excluded and marginalized from mainstream society. Our education system must include, in addition to the academics, programmes that provide opportunities for persons to demonstrate mutual understanding, respect and tolerance and to engage in dialogue.
The Barbados Association of reading is committed to contributing to the maintenance of a literate and peaceful society. Guided by the Association’s motto “Building A Nation of Readers”, the organisation recently provided training in literacy education for a group of adult literacy facilitators at the People’s Cathedral as well as for a group of community facilitators attached to the Community Development Division’s branches in St. Joseph. It is our mandate to continue the provision of educational expertise through the delivery of community-based literacy training structured to meet the needs of youth and adults.
The Barbados Association of Reading salutes International Literacy Day 2011 and calls on all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental, to renew their commitment towards the provision of literacy programmes that support the development of the individual as well as encourage persons to participate in building a just and peaceful society.
Submitted by Christina Morris
President, The Barbados Association of Reading