Venezuela’s literacy and primary education program, Mission Robinson, yesterday celebrated its 9thanniversary, with the program having taught over 1.75 million Venezuelans to read and write since its founding.
Launched by President Hugo Chavez on 28 October 2003, the program uses the Cuban literacy methodology “Yes I Can”. One of the program’s greatest achievements was to teach almost 1.5 million Venezuelans basic literacy skills in its first two years, with Venezuela being declared an “Illiteracy Free Territory” by United Nations body UNESCO in October 2005.
Of those taught reading and writing skills, over 39,000 are indigenous people, 7,249 are disabled persons, 1,442 are prisoners and over 7,250 belong to Socialist Production Units (UPS).
Mission Robinson encapsulates not only a basic literacy program, but primary education (Robinson II) and reading circles (Robinson III) to encourage continued practice and assimilation of skills learned in the first stages of the social program.
In recent years, a key focus of Mission Robinson has become reaching out to those who lack basic literacy skills and have still not incorporated themselves into the program, in order to turn Venezuela into “one big classroom;” according to the program’s director general Marisol Calzadilla.
Speaking to Venezuelan state news agency AVN, she said “there’s still a tough residue [of people] that’s very hard [to reach], and we won’t give up and will continue convincing them [to participate]. They are senior citizens, the majority over sixty years, due to which it’s been an uphill struggle”.
Last year Mission Robinson was extended with a special focus on incorporating senior citizens, particularly those in remote or rural areas, into the program.
There are currently almost 247,000 Venezuelans enrolled in some aspect of Mission Robinson, supported by 33,757 volunteer teachers, or “facilitators” as they are known. Calzadilla made reference to the effort made by facilitators to encourage people to incorporate themselves into the social mission.
“It’s so beautiful to see how the facilitators fight to get people involved. They look for you in your house, they convince you, and they make you fall in love [with education] so that you study,” she said.
Mission Robinson works in conjunction with a variety of other educational programs launched by the Chavez government to incorporate citizens who had been previously excluded or had missed out from the traditional education system. These include Mission Ribas (high school education), Mission Sucre (insertion into free university education), and the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, also founded in 2003.