MoE launches new National Literacy Department on World Book Day

The Ministry of Education launched its new National Literacy Department today at a Reading Affair and Literacy Clinic held at the New Central High School in observance of World Book Day.

The Honourable Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand said today that literacy is not just a national issue but it is also a global matter that is being addressed. She said that low literacy rates have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused many pupils to experience learning loss due to the schools being closed for over two years.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand delivering remarks today

However, to address this, she said that the Ministry thought it best to establish a National Literacy Department intended to develop national strategies which can be implemented in the education districts and communities to ensure children are learning to read and that their reading skills align with their age. She said that the work of the new department will include training and retraining of teachers, community volunteerism and parental and community involvement.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand pose for a photograph with readers from the Outdoor Library in Uitvlugt

She said that the mission for the education sector as it relates to literacy is that each child must be able to read and comprehend by Grade two and in Grade four those skills must be solidified. The Education Minister said that the personnel within the Ministry with responsibility for literacy as well as teachers in the classrooms across Guyana will be held accountable for the rollout of the programme and the outcomes which follow. She said that lacklustre performance will not be accepted since that results in large numbers of children suffering in the end.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand interacting with a student today at the literacy clinic

“So I want you to understand the position we are in. We’re not throwing up our hands and blaming anybody. We are saying that we have established a whole new post called the Assistance Chief Education Officer for literacy. That is how important we think it is and that is the priority we’re placing on this and we’re establishing and funding a whole department,” Minister Manickchand noted.

Further, she said that parents will have to straighten their priorities since children who cannot read will not be able to achieve the better life that they wish.

Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson

Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson said that the launch of the Department is key to the transformational process of the Ministry of Education. He said that if a child is not able to read at a certain grade, it becomes extremely difficult for that child to transition or to matriculate which is to move onto secondary school, do well, and ultimately move on to higher learning.

“Being literate is fundamental to one’s own development, the development of your family and by extension the development of a nation,” the CEO noted. He told the parents in attendance that they have a fundamental role to play in the process. He said that collaboration is needed at various levels including within the classroom, at the level of the school’s leadership, at the level of the Departments and at the level of the home and community.

Assistant Chief Education Officer, Ms. Samantha Williams

The Assistant Chief Education Officer (literacy), Ms. Samantha Williams said today that as the world observes World Book Day under the theme ‘I am a reader’, a 2019 UNESCO report had said that over 773 million children cannot read or identify basic letters. She said that though this data was recorded pre-COVID, one can only imagine what a post-pandemic analysis would reflect since most learners have been out of school for almost two years.

She said that reading is a basic skill everyone must acquire to have all opportunities available to them for success. She said, “Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.”

Some of the various tools that were on display today at the Literacy Clinic

Ms. Williams said that the Ministry of Education does not believe that learning and knowing to read should be treated as a privilege but rather it must be seen as a right of each person. She said that her Department which was launched today is strategically positioned to improve the reading, creative thinking, writing, speaking and listening skills of all learners and citizens. She said that though the Department was formally launched in 2008, today is significant since it now has a broader mandate and full autonomy to implement programs that will not only transform Guyana but create a nation of readers.

Education Officers conducting literacy sessions with pupils at today’s clinic

She said that the Department remains resolute in supporting the Ministry to provide education service that will equip every citizen with functional literacy skills. The new department is located at 74 Princes and St. Stephen’s Streets at the building that was once known as the St. Stephen’s Primary Annex.

Education Officers conducting literacy sessions with pupils at today’s clinic