YES, I CAN! hits the ground in Brewarrina

Cuba’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Jose Montano Galego, will launch the Literacy for Life Foundation Yes, I Can! Aboriginal adult literacy campaign in Brewarrina in outback NSW on August 26th.

Grace Gordon is Chairperson of the local Ngemba Community Working Party, which invited the Literacy for Life Foundation to bring the campaign to their town.

“We’ve been waiting for the Campaign to come up the river to us from Bourke. We saw the excellent results in Wilcannia, Enngonia and Bourke and we feel very excited to have it here,” said Ms Gordon. “Already we have over 60 people who have put their name down to do the YES, I CAN!”. Many of our people struggle to read and write well; some missed out on schooling altogether. YES, I CAN opens the door, building pathways into further study at TAFE and into employment.”

The campaign is based on a model developed in Cuba. Since 2000, it has taught 8 million adults to read and write in 29 countries around the world. In Timor-Leste, where Literacy for Life Foundation Executive Director Jack Beetson first saw it working, 200,000 adults learned to read and write over a five year period.

Beetson is a passionate advocate for the importance of adult literacy. “Right now, illiteracy in our rural and remote communities like Brewarrina is running at over 50%”, he says. “Illiteracy is sabotaging efforts to close the gap. Parents cannot help their kids with school work, people can’t access the services they need like health and housing, and young people are finishing up in gaol because they are too shamed to sit for their drivers license test. Worst of all, without good literacy, the chances of getting a job these days are zero.”

Associate Professor Bob Boughton from the University of New England worked on the campaign in Timor-Leste and has been evaluating its roll out in Australia since 2012. “The campaign model succeeds because it mobilises the whole community, “ says Boughton. “It works because the whole community gets behind it, and because it uses local people and family members to teach.”

In Brewarrina, the local coordinator is Mary Waites. She and the two local facilitators Norman Coffee and Janelle Frail have been doing training for the last three weeks. They are supported by Alex Dixon the Australian adviser, and will soon be joined by an adviser from Havana, Jose Chala Leblanch, who also worked on the campaign in Wilcannia. Yes, I Can! starts on Monday 7 September.