Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare yesterday declared illiteracy as an enemy of development and assured READ SI ( Resources for Education to Advance Development in Solomon Islands) of Government support to address illiteracy.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the launch of a National Campaign Against Illiteracy organised and funded by READ SI in Honiara yesterday.
The initial campaign involves the deployment of literacy teachers to 10 villages across the country to teach adults and children to read for a period of six weeks. The ultimate aim of this campaign is to reach 600 villages by April 2018.
The Prime Minister who had to take time off the first day of a two-day UNDP-organised workshop for Parliamentarians to attend the National Literacy Campaign launch told his audience of teachers and READ SI officials that, “Illiteracy is the worst enemy of development and we must fight it.”
He said the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was the subject of discussion at the workshop and if there was any relevance of the workshop discussion to the National Campaign against Ilieteracy then it is ‘Illiteracy is a great barrier to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.’
Prime Minister Sogavare said aligning (government) budgetary priorities with areas targeted by the UN Sustainable Development Goals was the message that emanated loud and clear from the first day of the workshop.
“That message challenged me because one of the greatest barriers to development touching or positively impacting the lives of each and every individual is illiteracy,” he added.
The Prime Minister said he was impressed by the amount of work undertaken by READ SI in addressing the problem of illiteracy in the country and in coming up with such an aggressive campaign to reach 600 villages within a year’s span.
On that note, Prime Minister Sogavare who accepted an offer by the Literacy Association of Solomon Islands and READ SI in 2016 to be a literacy champion of Solomon Islands said, “I want to remain a literacy champion of Solomon Islands. My offer still remains.” In accepting the offer last June, the Prime Minister consented to taking on the responsibility of being an advocator for literacy in the country through the availing of government funding for literacy and encouraging Members of Parliament to also assist in the literacy endeavor.
Prime Minister Sogavare told the READ SI officials that, “ You have my support. I’m going to contribute more than what I have initially stated. With the conclusion of the fifth meeting of the current 10th Parliament, the Government will sit and refocus the (2017) Budget so as to address the right things, one of which is illiteracy.”
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister stated that he as the Head of Government he was honoured to be present to deliver the assurance that the Government will stand by READ SI in the fight against illiteracy by ensuring they get the required Government assistance. “This is where it matters,” he added.
In her remarks at the event, Joyce Boykins of READ SI said the word campaign is a military term that refers to fighting a war.
“READ SI will fight the war against illiteracy in the villages using books as weapons and information as artillery,” she added.
“We will not only teach people to read. We will also give them information to help them to be better decision-makers. So, it is a war that we will win and it is a campaign that we will take.”
Mrs Boykins said currently READ SI has enough money to send people to ten villages so far and these finances came from ‘business and personal support.’
She added that as more money comes in, they will deploy more people in more villages across the country.
“We have until April 2018 to reach the vision of 600 villages and in the following year may be 1200 and in the next following year (2018) 6000 communities in this country who deserve that we get out there to teach the adults, youth and children to read so they can have better standards of living, improved and can make better decisions because they have further knowledge,” Mrs Boykins said.