Radio Cadena Agramonte
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Thursday, December 8, 2011

Literacy in Haiti, the Most Breathtaking Experience of a Cuban Teacher

By Mariela Peña Seguí/ Radio Cadena Agramonte.

MEd Omar Núñez (L).

MEd Omar Núñez is one of the members of an army of Cuban literacy workers that has taken the light of knowledge to several countries world over.

Between November 2006 and February 2009, Camaguey-resident Núñez served more than two years in Haiti as an adviser, an experience that made him feel even more proud of himself as a Cuban and as a teacher.

“The method - he says - is an ingenious combination of letters and numbers which is fairly understandable for grown-up people. In only three months, these people can read and write. For the Haitians, the method isn’t hard because they are used to haggle in the market, and of course, they are always using numbers. And even when many do not know their graphemes, they do know how to count, add and subtract. So, we combine letters and numbers and it helps in the learning process.          

“Besides, the method shows historical and cultural aspects of the country and educates people on health care matters. Approximately 400,000 people were taught to read and write in this stage. After three months, they all were no longer illiterate and they counted as schooled persons. Later, if they wanted, they could join the 'Yo sí puedo seguir' method, and finish elementary school and then high school in another stage”, says the Cuban teacher.

The days Omar Núñez lived in Haiti were impressive because “it is hard to imagine someone who cannot read or write in Cuba, but most of the people in Haiti are facing this situation.

“When they saw us coming, it was like a celebration for them. The population in Haiti isn’t aged, there people die young and, therefore, one can see a few old people. I met a 92-year-old lady who came to the school everyday. When she was made a test, the old lady wrote: LONG LIVE FIDEL, LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION!.

“It was stunning, because this old woman was the first person in the group that learnt how to read, but then after her the other members of the group, some 60 people, wrote the same phrase dedicated to Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. That day we all cried there. The Haitians because it was almost unthinkable for them after having spent half of their lives in ignorance, and for us because it is thrilling to serve people who are in need”.

- For an impoverished nation, harshly hit by hurricanes, poverty, epidemics…Which has been the major contribution of literacy in Haiti?

“This endeavour not only teaches them how to read or write, but also teaches them to think by themselves. In addition, thanks to “Yo sí puedo” they knew basic hygienic and social coexistence rules, for instance, there was this sing on a wall of a school that read: “Attention, Children Are People. Take Care of Them!” The point is that many of these children are subjects of mistreatment and exploitation. With literacy we also talk to them about the role of the family, as well as about methods to follow in farming. Literacy is all-embracing and what they learn will always be useful, mainly to brave adversities”.

- And as a human being and a teacher. What kind of valuable experiences did literacy in Haiti leave to you?

“As a teacher it meant a lot. In Cuban, education is something normal, even the youngest people do not know that a literary campaign was necessary in Cuba, and then a battle so that everyone could finish elementary school and then secondary school. But in many places around the world, there are people who do not know how to write their own names, young people who have dreams and potentials, but are predestined to remain in the shadow of ignorance, says Omar.  

“Haiti has been the most breathtaking experience in my whole life. I am glad that this was in that neighbouring country, because in others like Venezuela, for example, literacy has the support of the government. But this is not the case of Haiti, we have to do everything with scant resources. There I had the chance to know a sad side of the world that I didn’t imagine it could exist. After this mission in Haiti I feel even more proud of being a teacher.”