Many people, especially women, have not had the opportunity to receive a basic grade-school education. Most women in the highlands have less than a third-grade education, and many cannot even read or write. Countless women in our groups sign documents with their thumb print because they are unable to write their own names. These are not unintelligent people; they simply never had the opportunity to learn.
In 2004 we began an association with a fellow NGO (non-governmental organization) CONALFA. CONALFA has a structured program and the materials for adult education, but no funding for teachers except for their initial training and supervision. Seeds of Help Foundation provides several teachers (“promoters”) for this project. These teachers are usually locals from the community in which they work. They then teach the groups in the communities. The main effort is for the adults to attain literacy, but basic numbers and arithmetic are also taught.
This program’s effect is felt throughout the family. As a participant learns to read and write, the children are watching and also learning. The kids will be more motivated to learn and work harder in school. The adult will be better prepared to help the children. Many of our participants now realize the importance of education for the younger children. They work hard to give their children educational opportunities that they themselves didn’t receive.
In teaching the groups to read and write, we are also creating future community leaders. When they create organized groups, the officers (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer) are almost always picked from the few people that can read and write. Having an organizational secretary who cannot write rather defeats the purpose. Often only three or four members of a group can read. By teaching the groups to read and write, new community leaders can emerge to fill these positions both within our own groups and also in other community organizations.
Once they have these basic skills, the individuals can participate much more effectively in all the courses. It is difficult to teach classes without relying on written materials, and when no notes can be taken. When a more advanced level is reached, the participants can even borrow books and print materials to pursue studies in other topics of interest.