Today I learned how to read on, an, en, and ou. Then I learned to write 1,2, 3, and 4.
I was in a classroom in Les Forges behind the Deschapelles market, with 25 adults who were learning to read and write for the first time. When we arrived at the school, the regular students were leaving in their crisp uniforms, and the adults filed in to one of the classrooms while the teachers closed the rest of the school. The adult learners, most of whom were women, wore the clothes they were wearing in the market or the fields.
Agathe, our animated education coordinator, took over from the teaching assistant who has been leading the daily classes, and led the group in a rousing song in celebration of literacy. Then, writing on a section of the class wall which had been painted a matte black, she started to write, one at a time, the two-letter dipthongs, pausing to invite a student to the board to say the word and then to write it. Each achievement was celebrated with wild applause.
The afternoon rains have started, and they came today in a torrential flood, beating on the tin roof, making it impossible to hear anyone but Agathe, whose experience has brought her through more challenging situations.
The hard part of the day dealt with numbers – writing them, and then adding two of them at a time, with the class calling out the numbers and the answers.
This class, one of four being conducted in Deschapelles, is intended to strengthen the domestic economies of households of earthquake refugees and their host families.
Gozde Avci, the project sponsor, explains that these classes are essential to the participants to allow them to become full participants in the cash economy, allowing them to read labels and to calculate prices. The educational model is the same as the alphabetization program now being implemented for the HTRIP project, which has been proven to be an effective approach to rapid learning of basic writing and calculation.