Mickela Panday is one of the most recognisable figures in our national community. Despite our mutual affiliation with the T&T Guardian newspaper, she and I have never met.
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It’s best to keep your status secret
Over the last month, Reading, It’s Life has highlighted some of the myths readers have expressed about non-readers. Non-readers also believe myths of their own making, keeping them in the shadows, gripped by fear and shame of being found out. One myth is that a person’s literacy status is something best kept secret because people laugh and make fun of poor readers.
We’ve seen and heard this many times from our students who have walked into a class, believing finally there is nothing left to lose. In the words of one Alta Level 3 graduate, Lovena Gokool: “Finding Alta is like finding a diamond. I felt ashamed at the first moment entering the class. It did not last very long. After the Alta introductions I felt much better because everyone was in the same boat. we were there to do better for ourselves. We became a family, the Alta family, encouraging and sharing. We had to get beyond pride. Now we meet each other on the streets and talk.”
Lovena recalled how once before she had pretended to be note-taking, writing the letters of the alphabet over and over again, just to appear as though she was literate when she had attended a marriage seminar. Can you imagine someone there asking her to share her notes? Being scared to enter an Alta classroom could not compare to the constant fear of her secret being found out. Knowing she had the love and support of her family, Lovena got in to the classroom and thrived, from Level 1 literacy all the way to Level 3.
Everyone has the ability to bring an end to stigma. Start by addressing non-readers without pity or dismay at their reading ability. Avoid saying “How come you can’t read?” Instead, suggest Alta in the same tone as you would computer classes. Countless times potential students walk past the door to registration venues, taking a peek in to see the faces of tutors or to observe registration for any signs of public shaming. Once they get into the door, they realise fear was their greatest obstacle—which they have the power to overcome.
Registering for a class at a nearby community venue, then following through on that act with diligence day after day brings an end to days of shame and fear. When every Alta student is able to share their literacy triumph publicly, as Lovena has, we will finally see the end of this myth and to the reign of shame.
If you want to improve reading and writing, it’s okay to get lessons whatever your age. Alta registers people 16 and over once a year on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of September, the start of the new academic year for free literacy classes.
To register, visit your nearest public library on September 2 and 3 with a form of ID. Alta tutors will let you know the class options in the area and sign you up.
Become a part of Alta. Volunteer, donate, sponsor a student. New student registration begins September 2 and 3.
Call 624-ALTA (2582)
or e-mail [email protected]
or like us on Facebook: ALTA Trinidad.
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