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New Adult Literacy Teachers' Guide Launched


Friday, 24 August the workers' education association, Ledikasyon pu Travayer which won the UNESCO WORLD LITERACY PRIZE in 2004, lauched its new 160 page ADULT LITERACY TEACHERS' GUIDE. It is on sale at Rs 300. It is a rich and enriching book, showing the vast development over the past 30 years of the work done by Paulo Freire on the political process of adult literacy teaching as a (re)discovery of the world by the teachers and adult pupils.

Written in Mauritian Kreol, this book is the fourth publication on pedagogy that the workers' education association has published. Its first booklet was hand-made in 1977 (in 200 copies) and was called "Teachers' Book". The second, published in 1981, was a much longer guide to LPT's pedagogy. In the 1990's LPT published a series of 30 folders, a literacy "kit", to guide teachers through their 30 literacy classes. "New teachers became too dependent on the kit", Lindsey Collen, the secretary of LPT explained, "and we stopped using it as a whole kit."

Nita Raghoonunden of the Mauritius Institute of Education launched the book at the Friday evening ceremony at the LPT building in Gran Rivyer Nord Wes. She said she started reading it all in the wrong order after being attracted to the chapter called "Story of Pulwantee" as her mother's name is Pulwantee. This touching story then drew her into the pedagogy that LPT uses, which sees a person as a whole human being, a whole "continent". She said how impressed she was by the use of the adult pupils' own words as the first text, and with this, the importance LPT attributes, rightly, to writing, as opposed just to "reading".

On another tack, she said that she really appreciated that there was a "book" for teachers. She is always amazed at the lack of consideration given to teachers. New curricula get launched, children get given new books, while teachers just have to get on with it.

Alain Ah-Vee, presiding for LPT, said that the Government policy on language was a serious threat to peoples' right to learn to read and write, and actually did harm to children's cognitive development. More recently, he said, LPT has written to the Minister of Education and the Mauritius Qualifications Authority which falls under the Ministry, to protest against the entire conceptualization of the new draft tests for adults. (See copy of LPT letter in another news item). He said that anyone present could pick up a copy of this open letter. In it, he said, LPT pointed out how the State's language policy since Independence in 1968 has done harm to children's development. Now, although the stated aim of the MQA is laudable, that is to say to offer a certificate that can get adults back into the mainstream without having to do the Certificate of Primary Education, the way in which they are planning to test foreign languages and call it "testing literacy" is both ridiculous and harmful.

Alain Ah-Vee also paid homage to all the LPT volunteer teachers and adult pupils who had contributed to the wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience that is now in this handbook.

Lindsey Collen, who spoke in the name of LPT, said that the Ministry's continued failure to understand what human language is is becoming more and more dangerous. If the natural development of human language is thwarted by school language policy, this can do well nigh irreparable damage to the cognitive development of children. She said that there is a world of difference between various proto-languages and what human language, itself, is. Proto-language is used by children until they are 18 months old or so. It is approximate and has no proper grammar. Proto-language is also resorted to by adults (like any of us would do) who are confronted with the need to interact with other humans when there is no common language. This is called a pidgin language, and it too has no proper grammar. Animals (gorillas and monkeys) can be taught a proto-language, and indeed some have been taught to generalize verbs and nouns like "open" or "key" to different situations, she said. And, most important to bear in mind, is "wolf-children", or children brought up without language. Those who had reached, say, 15 years old when introduced to human language for the first time, would stay at the level of proto-language forever and would never learn proper language. Governments in Africa and Asia, including the Mauritian Government, by confusing foreign-language learning with the production of natural language, are severely damaging the mental development of whole generations of children. This is important, because language is the key to our ability to act collectively and politically. In the face of the grave problems facing Mauritius, and humanity as a whole, we must nurture our language capacity carefully.