At the Adult Tutors Literacy Association's (ALTA) headquarters in Belmont today, 54 people were recognised with certificates and special awards for their outstanding work and contribution to the 25-year-old literacy organisation.
Presented in three categories, Live Wire took the “lion share” of certificates with the acknowledgements of 40 people, while the categories of ALTA Anchor and ALTA Legend consisted of seven recipients each.
As explained by ALTA founder and CEO, Paula Lucie-Smith, who was recently awarded an Honorary Doctors of Law from The University of the West Indies' St Augustine campus, awardees in the Live Wire category were being recognised not only as first-year tutors, but for their service which spans ten years and goes beyond the classroom. They act in the roles of coordinators, administration, trainers and at times even board members.
The ALTA Anchor award pays respect to those within and a part of the organisation who have remained dedicated to the mission of ALTA and who have ensured quality service is a priority.
In the shape of a bookmark, which was purposely created, the ALTA Legend award tells the story of the recipients in this category who have stood the test of time during the organisation's growth.
Presenting the award, Lucie-Smith said the bookmark signified the manner in which these stalwarts who have been with ALTA from inception, continue to take the hand of tutors and students, pushing them forward to success.
“When you think about how you use a bookmark. How do you use it? You place it into a book and you keep moving it forward through that book; and there is nothing more that exemplifies our anchors and our legends like a bookmark because they put our students into books and they keep moving them forward,” Lucie-Smith said.
The story of Alta Legend Awardee Agatha Williams was heart-warming. Lucie-Smith spoke of an aged Williams who was instrumental in getting ALTA a 'foothold' in the community of Moruga many years ago, where formerly it was almost impossible to do so. Williams is like a “mother” of all sorts and a caretaker to all.
Speaking with Sunday Guardian following the awards ceremony, Lucie-Smith who was also the recipient of the Norman N Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence, said literacy was a very important issue that requires all the resources and energies it could get.
“Whether a person is six years old or 60 years old, that issue of literacy is a life changer.”
While Lucie-Smith was not able to give the Sunday Guardian any statistical information on how much better T&T was doing in the area of literacy, she did indicate that the agency had tonnes of anecdotal evidence which revealed children are in secondary schools and are not reading.
“This is a huge issue, because not only is it impacting the life of that individual but it's impacting the belief we have in education. So when parents support their children for five years in a secondary school and they come out with the same low literacy that they entered with, what is a parent to think about education?” Lucie-Smith asked.
She said the problem will go beyond that individual child and it is an area that should act as a social driver for improvement in T&T.
“People believe in education and if you destroy that belief, things begin to unravel, because it's what's pulling us together—that belief that we share. So I think that is something that we can safely say we need to begin to address more aggressively.”