The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 48           December 12, 2005  
Venezuela: ‘Territory free of illiteracy’
CARACAS, Venezuela—At the completion on October 28 of a 27-month-long literacy campaign that taught 1.5 million people to read and write, Venezuela was declared “Territory Free of Illiteracy.”

It is the second country in Latin America, after Cuba in 1961, to achieve such an accomplishment.

“Without Cuba, Mission Robinson would have been practically impossible,” said Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, thanking the people and the government of Cuba for their contribution in the literacy campaign.

Launched in July 2003, Mission Robinson aimed to teach basic reading, writing, and arithmetic to the 12 percent of adults who were illiterate in this country of more than 25 million people.

“The figures were daunting,” Javier Labrada, coordinator of the Cuban volunteers who work alongside their Venezuelan colleagues in education programs underway here, told the Cuban daily Granma.

“In 1998, only 59 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school, 1.5 million people were illiterate, more than 2 million people had not finished the sixth grade, and nearly 2 million did not have the possibility to finish high school,” Labrada said. “In addition, there was no space in the universities for the 500,000 high school graduates.”

The Cuban government donated tens of thousands of television sets, VCRs, videotapes, and printed material used in the classes. Several hundred Cubans taught Venezuelan volunteers the world-renowned teaching method “Yo sí puedo” (I can do it). First developed by Cuban literacy teachers volunteering in other countries, it was adapted to Venezuela’s conditions and to the needs of students with various disabilities, including the blind and the deaf. According to Venezuela’s government, all prisoners are now literate too.

“If we can’t live as equals, how can we call this living,” said José Moreno, a 26-year-old construction worker at the Latin American Children’s Cardiologic Hospital, being built in the Libertador municipality of Caracas. Moreno is enrolled in Mission Sucre, an accelerated university-level mass education program.

Moreno’s in-laws are 70 and 64 years old and live in Maracay, west of Caracas. They both recently graduated from Mission Robinson. Moreno said they both attended night classes at a local school, like the many that were established in every corner of the country to make learning courses accessible to adults with families and full-time jobs. “Before, they did not talk much about what was going on in the country,” said Moreno. “Now, they read the newspapers and talk more about politics.”

Over 125,000 people volunteered for Mission Robinson as facilitators for classes, transported students and materials, and offered their houses and porches as classrooms in working-class neighborhoods and rural areas around the country. Classes were held in the remote indigenous communities of Amazon state near the border with Brazil and the Orinoco River delta, the plains of Apure and Barinas, and many mountainous areas. Some 70,000 indigenous people, speaking 26 dialects, learned basic reading and writing. Teaching materials were produced in Spanish and in 14 indigenous languages.

A second phase of Mission Robinson was kicked off in October 2003 to reach the fourth-grade school level within one year, which was reached too. The government’s current goal is to bring everyone in the country to sixth-grade level education.
Related articles:
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Event is part of government efforts to make books accessible to all
New Zealand: Thousands at indigenous peoples’ conference, including Cuban literacy teachers  
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