Cuba educator: Yes we can eradicate illiteracy

September 24, 2012
First graduates from Cuban literacy program in Wilcannia. Photo Lara Pullin

With little fanfare or media attention, the small island nation of Cuba has been running an Aboriginal literacy program in the town of Wilcanni, in central new South Wales. Already, 16 local Aboriginal residents aged between 25 and 53 have learned to read and write through the program.

Yet, despite this success, the positive impact it has had on a community where unemployment is about 60%, and great level of interest shown by other Aboriginal towns to see the program introduced in their own communities, the Australian government is yet to confirm if it will fund any further Cuban-supported literacy projects.

On September 22, a good crowd was on hand to hear Jose Chala, the Cuban technical advisor who has been working with the community in Wilcannia, talk about his experience at a meeting organised by the Communist Party of Australia in Lidcombe.

Despite the devastating impact of an US-imposed blockade that has crippled its economy for more than 50 years, Cuba has constantly sought to reach out and help people all across the world.

This internationalist spirit, a central tenet of Cuba’s ongoing revolution, has been expressed through its world leading “Yes I Can” literacy program, which as Chala explained, has been applied in almost 30 countries and taught more than six million people to read and write.

The latest group of beneficiaries of this solidarity has been the 700 mainly Aboriginal residents of Wilcannia, located about 965 kilometers northwest of Sydney.

While Jose Chala explained that his time in Australia was up, he said that the Cuban government remained willing to work with the Australian government if it so wished to continue funding this literacy program for Aboriginal communities.

At the meeting, Aboriginal activist Ray Jackson presented Chala with an Aboriginal passport.

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