29,000 adults have benefited from the Cuban literacy program in Argentina

Cuban literacy program: gateway to knowledge

  Nuria Barbosa León

FROM 202 through now, the Cuban “Yo si puedo” method of literacy teaching has helped open the gateway to knowledge for approximately 6.5 million people. It is currently implemented in 30 nations and involves more than 100 million men and women.

The program consists of 65 lessons which teach illiterate persons to read and write in a period lasting 7 weeks to three months, with the use of audiovisual aids and the help of a facilitator (all of them voluntary), who act as a link between teachers and students.

Approximately 29,000 adults have benefited from the program in Argentina and Granma International visited two of its collaborators: Ramona Nancy Martínez and Violeta Blejman, workers at the Alejandro Posadas National Hospital in Buenos Aires.

Nancy Martínez heard via the media about the literacy campaign undertaken in Venezuela with Cuban help and approached the Cuban embassy in 2003 to ask it to facilitate the teaching materials.

“In less than one week I had in my hands the teaching program, the books, cassettes and even a video recorder,” recounted Nancy, who approached her compañeras in the hospital cleaning department to form the first group.

“We began the classes in the afternoon, in a house in the suburban barrio of Carlos Gardel, a very poor area. The first obstacle to overcome was care for the children of mothers on the course because each one had from seven to nine of them. For that reason we talked to the organizers of an infants’ play park to give us a classroom there and the children were looked after.”

“For the following courses we found a classroom in an elementary school for adults, despite a lot of resistance on the part of teachers there, who thought that we were taking away their students, while we were trying to organize it because when they completed our course that were ready to continue with elementary studies.”

Upon seeing our selfless and voluntary work in implementing the “Yo si puedo” program, they were more understanding and appreciated the generosity of the Cuban method. They ended up congratulating us with diplomas and awards.”

Violeta Blejman worked as a facilitator in 2008. She was an 18-year-old student of Social Psychology at the University of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, and observed that these experiences in adult literacy shaped her life.

She recalled an elderly woman of more than 70 years of age called Herminia, who made a tremendous effort to learn. Someone had taught her to sign her name and she discovered during the course that she had written it with other letters. She was extremely contented to be able to read and write in less than three months.

“Illiterate adults feel very ashamed of their condition,” commented Violeta, “they do not find it easy to sit down in a classroom because they feel inferior to the rest, hence the classes turned into conversations and exchanges about personal and family matters, as a collective way of finding solutions to problems. The theme of a society like the Cuban one was explained and discussed.”

She also commented that the overwhelming majority of illiterates have histories of a childhood damaged by days of exhausting work, which prevents them from attending school. They learn to handle themselves in life through colors and figures, and thus relate to numbers while not knowing their significance.

“The “Yo si puedo” program has the advantage of beginning with the relationship between numbers and words, I felt that they were afraid of discovering that they were learning,” noted Nancy Martínez, who added, “I will give you the example of a compañera who, when she found herself reading a word, ‘wing’, affirmed, ‘They can’t trick me anymore, I now know how to read.’”


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