A news report on a rat invasion in Port-of-Spain conjured images of citizens cornered on filthy city streets by mobs of black, glistening rats.
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Alta launches anti-stigma campaign
This year the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (Alta) will begin its student registration drive to attract new students with a special message for readers and non-readers alike: There is no shame in learning to read.
The message marks the beginning of Alta’s year-long anti-stigma campaign aimed at promoting literacy at any age and reminding readers that support—not shame—is key to non-readers getting into the Alta classroom.
Alta has crafted this message with the help of talented spoken-word artistes from the 2Cents Movement. This partnership will feature 2Cents poets endorsing this year’s slogan: “No shame. Go brave. Get in. Get through. You can…read!” through a series of public service announcements.
The ads, which will be aired on radio and television from August 24, will give voice to the reality of non-readers who walk the streets faced with print in every form on a daily basis.
Inherent in the messages are the challenges of the information age, but also the great strength and intelligence non-readers engage to overcome their daily challenges.
Fear, characterised as a monster rearing its head to challenge the non-reader, is faced head on with boldness and resilience aided by the skills learned in an Alta environment.
“In its 22 years of existence Alta has made free literacy classes available to adults, through its network of in-house trained volunteer tutors. Our one challenge has been for the public to come out and say, ‘Yes, we support non-readers. It has no shame in that’,” CEO and founder of Alta Paula Lucie-Smith said.
The constant fear of being made fun of is the reality faced by many non-readers in our midst. Recently an Alta Level 1 student was featured on a popular Facebook page, People of T&T.
The site was flooded with positive comments praising her courage and encouraging her to persevere. The fact that she was seen as a hero and embraced by a supportive public will inspire other non-readers to step out of the shadows.
More importantly, this response indicates the beginnings of a change in attitude from scorn to admiration for the non-reader—maybe in part to Alta’s work over more than two decades. The time is right for a full anti-stigma campaign to further reduce, and ultimately remove, the shame associated with low literacy.
This year’s campaign has also attracted the support of the Citizen Security Programme (CSP) which is working to reach citizens in at-risk communities and with whom Alta has partnered since 2011.
In addition to classes in CSP communities, Alta is inviting adult students 16 years and over who want to improve their reading and writing skills to “get in” to a class located in over 50 centres across the country.
Registration will take place on September 2 and 3, from 9 am to 6 pm, at public libraries in Arima, Chaguanas, Couva, Point Fortin, Port-of-Spain, Princes Town, San Fernando, Sangre Grande, San Juan, Siparia, and Tunapuna; and at the Warrenville Regional Complex.
People interested in attending classes, volunteering as an Alta tutor/Reading Circle Guide or sponsoring a student can call
624-ALTA (2582) or 624-3442 in Port of Spain; 664-2582 in Arima, 653-4656 in San Fernando or visit Alta’s website at alta-tt.org.