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Atlantic joins fight against illiteracy, innumeracy

Monday, July 21, 2014

Primary schoolchildren in Point Fortin with literacy and numeracy challenges will now receive help through a new programme being developed by the Ministry of Education St Patrick district in partnership with LNG producer Atlantic. 


The first phase of the Point Fortin Primary Schools Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme kicked off recently, with a special training session held at Atlantic’s Point Fortin Community Office for principals of the borough’s nine primary schools. 


A release from Atlantic said the principals were taught how their teachers’ classroom activities could be enhanced with the use of special literacy exercises done in tandem with Spirit Multimedia Player/Recorders. The Spirit Player/Recorders are specialised instructional technology developed by American firm Califone that will be deployed in Point Fortin primary schools to improve students’ reading skills. 


Marlon Grant, team lead–sustainability at Atlantic, said the Point Fortin Primary Schools Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme was an initiative implemented in support of the Local Economic Development (LED) Programme. Born of a partnership between Atlantic and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the LED aims to support sustainable socio-economic growth in six communities in Trinidad’s South West Peninsula: Point Fortin, La Brea, Chatham, Buenos Ayres, Cedros and Icacos. 


“This Literacy and Numeracy Intervention targets Point Fortin specifically, and the borough’s very real problems with illiteracy and innumeracy among children, the future of the community,” Grant said. 


“Atlantic believes that it is our responsibility as an LNG producer to help ensure that the necessary systems and mechanisms are put in place to enable the next generation to reach where they want to go. The Point Fortin Primary Schools Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme will facilitate children achieving basic reading and mathematical skills. These skills are vital for our children’s future, whether for SEA, secondary school and beyond.” 


Camille Shah, principal of Salazar Trace Government Primary, and facilitator of the Literacy Training, explained that the Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme represented a timely solution to the growing problem of illiteracy in South Trinidad. 


“Many of the children have difficulty with English and Mathematics and conventional teaching methods often prove to be insufficient to combat these difficulties,” Shah said. “These challenges are exacerbated further by learning disabilities, family problems and financial constraints.” 


Principals participating in the training sessions said they too believe that the programme could greatly assist students, even those without learning challenges. Erica Tracey, principal of Point Fortin RC, said the programme’s key benefit was its use of modern technology. 


“Children like technology, it peaks their interest,” Tracey said. “I therefore think this programme would encourage students to want to learn to read and enhance their reading skills as they will be interested in using the technology. The programme’s technology enables students to see and hear when learning. It really is a two-fold teaching instrument that incorporates both visual and audio tools.” 


Kirt Mitchell, principal of Point Fortin Anglican, said he thought the initiative would be especially successful because it not only tackled the problem of illiteracy directly, but also equipped the teachers. 


“I like the structure of the programme which assists students from the Standard one level; therefore attacking the problem from an elementary stage,” Mitchell said. “I am especially pleased with the fact that they are training the administrators to use the equipment first. Many times there is the opportunity to use technology to enhance learning but most teachers do not know how to use it. It is therefore important to first train us, the teachers, on how to use the technology so we can guide our students accordingly.” 


During the first phase of the Point Fortin Primary Schools Literacy and Numeracy Intervention Programme, Atlantic will assist with the distribution and implementation of Spirit Multimedia Player/Recorders to Point Fortin primary schools. The Ministry of Education will also be engaged in several supporting activities, including the upgrading of school libraries. In some instances, classrooms will be retro-fitted to facilitate “listening centres” for students. The Ministry will also undertake an upgrade of Internet services for Point Fortin schools. 


The programme’s second phase will entail a formal testing of students’ literacy and numeracy competency which will be compared to the results of the programme’s initial base-level tests. This will help to determine the next phases of the programme.


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