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Literacy – changing and saving lives

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Tue, Sep 09, 2014

The lifelong intellectual process of gaining meaning from the written or printed text was celebrated around the world yesterday.

International Literacy Day 2014 was commemorated on September 8, under the theme “Literacy and Sustainable Development.”{{more}}

As the definition suggests, literacy should not be understood as merely the ability to read and write, but the development of skills which are are honed and refined over time, forming the basis for lifelong learning.

The connection being made this year by UNESCO between literacy and sustainable development is timely and relevant in many ways, as it reminds us that literacy not only changes lives, it saves them.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we have had our fair share of challenges in recent times, which are often made worse by the propagation of misinformation in the society.

We are in the midst of an outbreak of the Chikungunya virus and last Saturday, while we were still in recovery mode from the flash floods of December 2013, we again experienced heavy rains, causing landslides and flooding.

Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration. Literacy is also key in enabling our people to reject misinformation when it confronts them.

Our public health authorities have been emphasizing for some time now, that the Chikungunya virus is spread by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and the most effective way to check the spread of the disease is to eliminate breeding sites of the mosquito. Since April, when the virus was first confirmed here, health authorities have been calling on the public to assist them by taking certain actions to minimize the spread of the disease.

Surprisingly, many persons here have publicly expressed that the Chikungunya virus is not spread by the mosquito, but by other means. We are not sure on what scientific basis these claims are based, but such thinking exposes the entire society to harm, especially when these persons decide, through ignorance, not to cooperate with the Ministry’s vector elimination efforts, as the Chikungunya virus has nothing to do with the mosquito.

Similarly, in the immediate aftermath of the flooding and landslides of last weekend, some have been asking whether anything was learnt by some people from the tragedy of last December. Questions like these are prompted when one observes the large quantity of garbage which washes down in our waterways during times of heavy rains, causing drains to be blocked and contributing to the flooding which occurs. This indiscriminate dumping of waste should not happen in a country like ours where there is weekly island-wide pick-up of garbage.

We therefore must support and press on with efforts to promote literacy at all levels – not just to change the lives of our people, but to save lives.

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