Improved Quality of Life through Literacy.
In the 21st century a person can be regarded ‘poor’ because she/he cannot read and write.
This is the story in most rural and remote communities in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu [ACOM] which covers eight  Dioceses. The Province through its Mothers Union [MU] recognised that amongst its members there are those who cannot read and write and is taking steps to address the gap between the literate and illiterates.
The MU introduced Adult Literacy in 2008 in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Interestingly, literate MU women came out and volunteered to teach their sisters.
One of the founding reasons for this issue was and is that there are members of the MU in both provinces who cannot take part actively in the activities that requires skills in reading and writing. This leads to their non-commitment in taking up responsibilities and attendance in meetings.
MU started literacy classes with women but over time having seen the positive result impacted on their wife, men started coming out and getting enrolled and learning to read and write, some with their wife and even children attended classes together. The Religious Orders of the ACOM also tapped into the program by having Aspirants and Noviciates who came with little formal education to learn to read and write confidently.
An extension of this program is now with the Solomon Islands Prison Services where inmates are being taught to read and write in English.
To ensure that the clients are not restricted to reading and writing only, MU also tailored into their lessons Financial Literacy and Numeracy and Life Skills. The clients get a rounded training enabling them to venture into self-sustaining activities upon completion of their trainings.
Being able to read and write open many opportunities for these rural and remote people. However, first and foremost is being able to read the prayer and hymn books and fully participate in services. Understanding every word and making sense of their meaning in their personal lives which in the past was just parroting what the priest or catechist said. Being literate now has had huge impact in hundreds of these newly liberated women and men.
Most significant change.
- I live in a suburb in Honiara with my family. I was not able to read and write because as a female my education was not important to my father. To survive in a growing town I must help my husband to earn extra money to support our children. I am a friendly and likeable person and can attract customers to my stall but I cannot count nor read numbers. Then the MU introduce literacy to my parish and I enrolled as one of the pioneer student, after two years I can read and write and today I am a successful fish seller. I buy fish from fishermen and re-sell; I can confidently negotiate and bargain on prices because I can now play with numbers and having a calculator now makes everything easier. Being literate have given me a totally new lease in life but above all, I gain the respect and love from my husband and children and participate actively and fully in all MU work – Thank you MU for bringing light to my once gloomy world. [A member of Tuvaruhu Parish – Honiara]
- [Shared stories] I almost lost my eldest son when he was 2 years old because I cannot read nor write. There was no School in my village when I was a girl growing up. My father sent my brothers to the nearest school on another island to stay with relatives and attended classes. I got married before I was 20 and started having children. The nearest Aid Post was almost half a day’s walk and the nurse was from another Province who can only communicate in Pidgin and English. I am limited to Pidgin and no English so it was difficult to communicate with her thus my refusal to go to the clinic when my son got pneumonia. Luckily a female relative persuaded me to go see the nurse and that she was coming with my son and I. My son got the much needed medication. My relative explained everything about the medication, how often to take them and when to take them; I was indebted to her and shed tears not so much of gratitude but because it sounded so simple, yet I have a disability of being illiterate. I promised myself that I will one day learn to read and write and not to depend on people or wait and in my case let my son suffer unnecessarily. Then the local MU introduced literacy to my community, they were a godsend to me. I enrolled and two years later I am able to read and write. The first book that I read was my sons clinic book to prove that what my relative told me a few years ago was written in the clinic book, it was all there – I praise the Lord for His love and the wisdom that He gave to people, like the MU to reach down to people like me! For me it is just the beginning, I want to continue and learn to read and write English! I know that the MU will deliver – thank you MU and ACOM and all who are involved in this most important program – You are Life Savers….