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Venezuela declared ‘free of illiteracy’

Published Nov 5, 2005 10:40 PM

On Oct. 28 Venezuela declared it is now a “Territory Free of Illiteracy.” The Bolivarian government is pushing ahead with policies and measures to raise its population from the misery and ignorance that prevailed for decades, despite Wash ington’s mounting hostilities against Venezuela and particularly against its president, Hugo Chávez, including a thoroughly negative media campaign.

The guidelines of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Orga nization (UNESCO) say that a territory must have less than 4 percent illiteracy in order to declare it is free of illiteracy. In the last two years, Venezuela has lowered illiteracy to less than 1 percent by teaching close to 1.5 million people how to read.

Venezuela accomplished this tremendous educational leap forward with the generous and expert help of Revolutionary Cuba and its program, “Yo sí puedo” (“Yes, I can”). Not surprisingly, these are the only two countries in Latin America to have won the status of “illiteracy free.”

On the day of the announcement, celebrated joyously all over Venezuela, Presi dent Chávez gave special recognition to the people who had overcome illiteracy through participation in the Robinson Mission, stating that, “Democracy must be practiced with a cultured people.”

Chávez specially highlighted and expres sed gratitude to Cuba and its President Fidel Castro, stating that even though Venezuela had been trying since 2000 to erase illiteracy, it was not until they used the Cuban method that they were able to succeed. “Without Cuba, the Robinson Mission would have been impossible,” said the Venezuelan president.

Reaching Indigenous communities

Sports and Education Minister Aristó bulo Istúriz said that the program had placed great emphasis on reaching nomadic Indigenous communities.

He added, “The Robinson Mission permitted people with visual problems to learn the Braille method, and for those who could not hear, we taught them through sign language, that is, this process involved everybody equally.”

Education and especially teaching reading is an area where the United States lags way behind Cuba and Venezuela. The U.S. government could learn a great deal from countries it deems to be “the enemy.”

The website of the U.S. Department of Education reports on the grim findings of a 1993 study on literacy in the U.S. Results are as yet unavailable from another study conducted in 2003.

‘The statistics make it clear: illiteracy is on the increase in the United States. The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), an analytical arm of the U.S. Congress, stated in a 1993 report:

“Standards and requirements for literacy have increased over time and a large number of adults need to improve their literacy skills. OTA finds that at least 35 million adults have difficulty with common literacy tasks. Although many of these adults can read at rudimentary levels, they need higher levels of literacy to function effectively in society, to find employment, or to be trained for new jobs as the workplace changes.... Fewer than 10 percent of the population in need is being reached.’” Bolivia, the poorest country in the region, and the Dominican Republic may soon join Cuba and Venezuela in eradicating illiteracy, probably before the U.S. does. On Oct. 28, the Venezuelans announ ced that the Robinson Mission and the “Yes, I can” method will be used in these two poor countries.