by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 19 September 2007)
When we elect our leaders and pay out taxes, we expect these leaders to take care of the business of running the nation so that we can focus on such things as our jobs and families.
However, there are times when our leaders simply do not have the resources – whether intellectually or monetarily – to do the job to standard to which the people expect and need. This is when the nation starts to see important aspects of governing fall through the cracks.
For example, there is much that can be said, and in fact has been said, about the current condition of the educational process. It is one thing when the government cannot provide cutting edge education (that would include computer training) to the children, but it quite a serious indictment on the proficiency of the entire system when literacy takes a hard blow.
An adult who does not have the skills to work a computer can build a career in a job that requires no such ability. However, there are very, very few jobs for those who cannot read. It is important to understand that there many responsible for teaching children to read – starting with the parents, then the teachers and the government.
Yet still we must remember there are some parents who do not know how to read themselves. The sole burden for teaching the children of such parents now falls on the teachers and government. However, after raising four children, I know how easy it is for children to slip right by the attention of busy teachers and overstretched politicians.
This is when it is once again upon society to take up this burden in the absence of any other capable hands. This is when civil society should take the necessary steps to safeguard the nation against a rising illiteracy rate.
There are so many ways in which social programmes can be started and maintained by non-governmental organisations (NGO). This is also a perfect opportunity for the business community to band together to help educate its future work force. Likewise, parents – both literate and non-literate – can create fun adventures that would encourage reading.
In fact, it would be wonderful if Guyana’s celebrities used their status to promote reading. This could be on a local level, like a school attended while growing up, or on a national level with television, radio and newspaper ads to promote a reading program.
Moreover, if these celebrities – maybe even a Miss Guyana or two - came together to send a joint message to the youth of the nation that learning to read is one of the most important things a child could ever do, it would go a long way toward sending the message that reading is fun.
The influence these young celebrities have over the youth is an amazing phenomenon that can be used for the good. There are so many celebrities who waste their star power when it can be channelled into a good cause such as helping children by encouraging them to read.
While I do believe this issue should be manageable under the supervision of the government, it seems to be one of those problems that consistently get swept under a rug somewhere while everyone involved pretends it does not exist.
It would be too easy for society as a whole to shake its finger at the government for the flagging literacy rate. However, this is not one of those issues that can be ignored until the government finds a way to fix it. It is in situations such as this when everyone should jump in and work together for the good of the children.
This is not a time to push blame and point fingers – not when the children are the ones who suffer. Now is the time for action. So what are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there. Go out and help a child to read.