On September 8 we celebrate International Literacy Day. The literacy work of Bible Societies has been officially recognised by UNESCO, with whom we are in consultative partnership. Here are some testimonies and stories from Bangladesh, China, Egypt and Peru.
Testimonies from Bangladesh
“I not only learned the lessons from the literacy class but also I got a prayerful life through this,” Maya Mondal
Testimonies from China
“faith is strengthened through reading, listening and writing Scripture” Rev Li Dajun
Testimonies from Egypt
In my opinion
Emad, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt’s post-literacy program, had arranged to meet a facilitator at a monastery from where they would go to one of the villages together to visit a class. The facilitator was delayed and arrived an hour late. When he arrived, they called the house where the class was meeting to see if the boys were still there. “Yes, they are waiting,” was the reply.
When they got to the village, Emad (who was unknown to them) asked one of the boys, “Why did you wait?” “I like the program,” he replied. Emad suggested with his tone and his words that the program really wasn’t that special or important, saying something disparaging about the program, and finally, “Well, I don’t think it’s worth it really.” The young boy looked straight at him, and said firmly, “In my opinion, it’s an excellent program.” Later on, when the facilitator introduced Emad as the director of the program, the boys were indeed surprised!
Emad was delighted with the boy’s response. One principle that is taught and stressed in our program is the importance of showing respect and listening to others, and yet also being able to confidently and respectfully disagree and state what you think or feel. Students are equipped with the ability to discuss and explain their own thoughts without attacking the other. They are taught to use such phrases as, “I think/believe/feel…” or “In my opinion…” or “According to what I believe….” This young student had clearly demonstrated how this program had shaped his thinking and response.
When students, both young and old, come into our program for the first time, the majority of them have very little tolerance or ability to discuss. In all areas of life, people in this society are not expected to question or to disagree. Yet our program uses the Participatory Approach, and many times throughout the lesson, students are expected to discuss and make decisions, both as a group and as an individual.
The students are asked to identify which words in the passage are difficult for them to understand and to discuss together and choose simpler words instead, thus translating the text. Different people choose different words, and much discussion takes place. Not all words are accepted; however, more than one word is acceptable.
Later, the students retell the story in the passage in his/her own language. Again, all input is welcome and students are taught to listen respectfully to one another’s interpretation, even if it is different from their own.
An illiterate woman becomes literate and then teaches in our program
There is a young lady who is now a teacher in the program. She was once a student in the program, and learned to read and write through this program. She is now able to read very well, but she still has some difficulties in writing. But she has not let her weaknesses stop her. She believes in this program and wants to help others learn as well. So she has become a teacher in our program, and when she needs to write things on the board or in the course of teaching, she gets her teenage daughter to write for her! The daughter is happy to do this along with her mother, and is encouraged and proud to be a practical help to her mom, and motivated to help others learn as well. This woman is a wonderful teacher and it really comes naturally for her to communicate the information, to correct, and to guide other adults and children in learning to read. She is really engaging and promotes great discussions.
Testimonies from Peru
“thanks to my wife’s prompting that I have learned to read in Quechua” Julio Cárdenas