Rev Clarke's literacy disclosure a sad reality

Friday, October 12, 2018

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The entire nation should be bemoaning and, as a minimum, giving serious thought to the revelation by Rev Carl Clarke, the priest in charge of Sts Philip and James Catholic Church in Lucea, Hanover.

Reverend Clarke, as reported in yesterday's Jamaica Observer West publication, revealed that in his evangelical mission across the parish he has observed that a large number of children can't read.

Addressing a recent handing-over ceremony for a multi-purpose centre — constructed at the church to include a centre of learning for these illiterate Jamaican children — Rev Clarke said: “There are a lot of people and a lot of children who cannot read. Some 15 and 16 (year-olds), and they can't read. Another thing I noticed, especially among young men, is that many have dropped out of high school.”

This is indeed sad, especially in the birth parish of National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante. This revelation vividly demonstrates the widening chasm between town and so-called country in Jamaica.

For while people in Kingston and the more developed areas get stressed over which cable channel is down or which cellphone — Apple or Android — is better, others are struggling because of a lack of care, a lack of resources or a lack of understanding that in 2018 illiteracy is still with us and is still having a negative impact on our young and old.

We are sure that Hanover is not the only parish suffering from the malady of illiteracy. Other areas, especially those deep hinterland communities which only come up on the radar when it is time for elections, are experiencing the same problem.

We cannot be truly speaking of either progress or prosperity when so many of our young folks cannot read and write. This obvious human darkness only finds expression in our still high levels of crime and violence.

Reverend Clarke further stated, and we should take heed: “You know what, if we can work with them now… you are going to have less thieves, and scammers, so we want to save them, we want to rescue them.”

We know that there are several literacy programmes being run by churches and other organisations. However, it seems that more are needed to prevent children and adolescents in particular from drifting away into darkness. Official figures in 2011 said only 80 per cent of adults were literate in Jamaica.

This is simply too high. If we think education is expensive, try ignorance. The Government must give urgency to identify the problems and ultimately find a solution to the issues which keep so many of our children and adults away from the bright light of learning.

We accept that road construction and development are essential to the growth of the Jamaican economy; we know, understand and are happy when consumer confidence grows to a 17-year high, but we also know, and it is often said by politicians and civic leaders, that the people are our most precious resource.

We are sure that Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who once led the country's education ministry with gusto and aplomb, agrees. As prime minister now, he can do much more in this area.

Reverend Clarke is to be congratulated for leading the efforts of his church in this mission of taking our young people out of the pit of darkness.

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