Mission Accomplished: How Bolivia Defeated Illiteracy
The government of Evo Morales has achieved in three years what the regimes of the past two centuries could not: freeing
A formidable social mobilisation allied to pedagogical and material help from
Bolivians themselves contributed 46,457 facilitators and 4,810 supervisors. They used the Cuban audio-visual ‘Yes, I can’ method. The literacy campaign had a distinctly “woman’s face” as 85% of the illiterate population was female. The programme, carried out by the National Alphabetisation Programme of Bolivia, cost $36.7 million.
Harder to quantify are the hours of arduous work put in by the Bolivian volunteers and that of their Cuban and Venezuelan colleagues who worked for two years away from their countries and families often in remote areas and in a harsh, cold climate to which they were not used. A Cuban volunteer put it as a “difficult but beautiful experience”.
Literacy classes were organised in all sorts of locations. In Quila, in the department of Chuquisaca, where the remains of pre-historic remains have been found, it was the museum set up by the local community. Classes were organised in old-age homes and in one location at least prostitutes were taught in a public plaza. The Opposition-controlled districts were distinctly unhelpful. Even on the day the country celebrated the historic achievement, the Right dismissed it as mere propaganda.
The alphabetisation programme was chalked out in a meeting between President-elect Morales and Fidel Castro on December 29, 2005. Within two months, by the middle of February 2006, the first Cuban advisors had arrived in
The Cuban pedagogical method was tweaked in the
The post-literacy programme from February 2009 has as its motto, ‘Yes, I can keep going’ and intends to teach primary level Spanish, mathematics, geography, history and science to the newly-literate population. There are more ambitious allied aims of extending learning to school-leaving level and increasing the knowledge and technical skills of the population. The new Bolivian constitution, which is to be put to vote in 2009, will ensure free education for all till the pre-university level.
Nobody was ignorant till they learnt to read and write, Morales told the ceremony to mark this historic day at
The literacy programme is sure to extend to
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