“No literacy, no development.”
This statement by Brother Edwin Joseph makes clear how critical it is that the poor of Madagascar have an opportunity to learn to read and write. The literacy classes funded by CRMF can provide opportunities for students to be involved with other programs as well, such as participation in the family garden initiatives.
Roots of the Literacy Program
Literacy training has always been at the forefront of CRMF support in Madagascar. CRMF started with funding for one literacy center in 2002 and offered the first adult literacy program for the poor in the Tamatave region.
Literacy classes expanded based on high demand, and at one point we funded more than 20 centers, including school supplies, teacher training, and salaries. In some cases, we also paid for electricity or solar lighting. Over 3500 people completed basic literacy instruction through the classes.
Time for a Change
In early 2016, program director Vero Rasoazanamita and Brother Edwin Joseph shifted the direction of the program to small, home-based classes after meetings with a group of teachers. This format of instruction, they believe, will make the programs even more effective in the neighborhoods where it was needed the most.
As a result, today’s literacy programs are home-based, with a focus on small class size and flexibility. Trained ONG St Gabriel instructors lead the programs, with each supervising five or six home-based centers. There are currently more than 100 home-based centers in operation.
International Literacy Day
Every September, past and present literacy program students and staff gather to help celebrate World Literacy Day. For the 2009 celebration, ONG St. Gabriel and CRMF chose a poor, urban area in Toamasina near a well-established center as the site for the events. Some shared stories about the impact of literacy in their lives, while others participated in competitions to develop songs and cultural dances. The event was covered by the local media and both traditional and computer literacy centers experienced an increase in interest in the following days.
Computer skills are critical, and the centers are so popular that there are waiting lists for classes. One young man spoke about his experience at a literacy event. He was employed at a bank, yet his opportunities for promotion and earnings were limited due to his lack of computer skills. He wanted to learn, but was unable to afford expensive training programs. After classes at one of the technology centers, he was able to increase his salary and move into a better position. We are hoping to update and expand the technology centers soon so that there are more success stories such as his.