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'Illiteracy rising in rural schools'

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Kahlil Harris, head of A Brighter Day Foundation, addresses a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's central Kingston offices. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

A voluntary group focusing on improving education in the island's schools has painted a worrying picture of the low literacy rate in some rural institutions.

"Illiteracy is on the rise and it is evident in some schools that we visited," head of A Brighter Day Foundation, Kahlil Harris, said during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.

"There is a school in St Mary that only one student passes the Grade Six Achievement Test per year and the others are just placed in a (junior high) school," Harris said. "Even the teachers are not exposed enough to help the students improve, so you see things are really bad."

He said an islandwide reading programme was needed to enhance learning in the schools, but it should first start with the teachers who are sometimes unable to carry out their duties effectively.

"They (teachers) don't read a lot about the outside world and so they are not able to bring new ideas to the educational system," he noted.

"They can't do things to stimulate interest in the kids because they are not stimulated themselves," he added.

He disclosed that the group, which started in 2008, wants to redouble its effort in providing learning materials for the schools, as well as to conduct reading sessions with the students.

Lack of resources

But a lack of resources is crippling the organisation's bid to assist the children who range up to 16 years.

Among the problems which Harris outlined that are affecting the organisation are transportation to take books to the schools, financial problems, as well as a shortage of volunteers to carry out the duties.

"We are successful to a point but because we don't have enough finances we are sometimes faced with problems to give our all to the students," he noted.

The non-profit organisation's head made a passionate plea for help from corporate Jamaica.

"We want them to come on-board and assist us to help the children."

The group has so far been able to donate books and carry out learning sessions with four primary schools. Harris said the focus was mainly on rural areas, where resources are in high demand.