The United Nations has designated September 8 as International Literacy Day. In many developed countries, the day passes without much fuss. Here in the Solomon Islands it is celebrated well.
Each year, the organizations who support literacy programs plan a special event in the capital city of Honiara. This year the event began with a parade through town and participants marched to the National Art Gallery where a large tent and chairs for guests was set up.
Speeches were read by children who had written essays, the Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education spoke, and songs were sung. Listen to one of the songs here: [youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMobu-lIREc’]
My favorite part of the literacy day celebrations is seeing the groups of women from reading classes who come to celebrate. They often have matching t-shirts and proudly carry a banner with the name of their group. Stories they have written are on display. They are members of an exclusive club – women who have overcome many obstacles to learn to read and write. Their pride in the accomplishment of learning to read displaces years of disappointment and shame. What a joy to share in their celebration.
This year the Literacy Association of the Solomon Islands had tables set up with paper and pencils and everyone was invited to write a story. The stories were compiled into a book for all to see and those who contributed were allowed to choose a free book from the book table.
“When I was a small child, I didn’t read the Bible and didn’t know what the Bible said about life. But after attending literacy classes, I could read and understand what the Bible says about my life. The Bible teaches me the right way to live.”
What a joy to read that story. I was pleased to hear that literacy classes were still going on in the prison (I helped start them a number of years ago) and the Pijin Bibles placed in the prison on the day it was launched, are being read today. The teachers who volunteer at the prison asked where they can get more copies of the Bible for the eager inmates who want to read it. A new delivery of Bibles is due in at the end of month and we can help them out.
When we first came to the Solomons, we were largely involved in helping to organize International Literacy Day. It’s wonderful now to see Solomon Islanders from many different sectors and organizations championing literacy for their country.