The ability to read and write is critical. Not only is it required in terms of education, but literacy is a key component in essential life skills, such as signing a contract or undertaking business transactions, even as simple as shopping. It also makes it easier to inform people about health issues, such as HIV prevention. Brochures and posters are of little use if people can’t read them.
It is particularly critical in the Porgera District, which had the highest illiteracy rate in Papua New Guinea (PNG), according to the 2002 National Population Statistics.
The “Literacy Is For Everyone” (LIFE) program, supported by Barrick as part of its commitment to education, was established in 2003 as a project of the Porgera District Women’s Association (PDWA). The program focuses on adults who have never read, out-of-school youth, and elementary-school-aged children in remote areas who otherwise have no access to school.
Developed in close collaboration with the local community, the program runs in 70 area schools, producing over 300 trained instructors. Collectively, these schools have provided basic literacy training to over 5,000 adult and out-of-school students. Materials are donated by the Porgera Joint Venture and the PDWA.
Local literacy committees take ongoing responsibility within the community for finding and developing more trainers and new venues for training. There are over 500 dialects spoken in PNG. People are initially taught to read and write in Pidgin, the official language of PNG, formally known as Tok Pisin. Later, they gain literacy in their local dialect and English. “Train the trainer” sessions allow people to pass on literacy knowledge in rural communities. The program also provides training in life skills complementary to reading and writing, allowing participants to become more involved in community activities. The teachers are all volunteers.
Improving literacy is a priority in many places where Barrick operates. In the Dominican Republic, Barrick recently facilitated a four-month literacy course, working with the Center for the Formation of Organized Women Maria Liberadora (CEFORMOMALI) and the Ministry of Education. The program helped 64-year old Calixta Cedeño Hernández and 300 other women learn how to read and write.
“For the community of Cotui, the conclusion of this means fewer illiterate people, a decrease in low self-esteem, and more women who are able to defend themselves. We thank Barrick Pueblo Viejo and Ministry of Education for their support,” said Sister Luisa Suárez, CEFORMOMALI’s director.