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Cuban Ambassador makes special trip

Monday, 14th May, 2012

CELEBRATION: Graduates from the Aboriginal adult literacy course with Pedro Monzon, the Cuban Ambassador to Australia. CELEBRATION: Graduates from the Aboriginal adult literacy course with Pedro Monzon, the Cuban Ambassador to Australia.

By Gayle Hogan

The Cuban Ambassador to Australia made a special trip to Wilcannia to meet graduates from an Aboriginal adult literacy course.

Pedro Monzon handed the certificates to the 10 Wilcannia residents who passed the “Yes I Can”  Adult Aboriginal Literacy Campaign last week.

Wilcannia project co-ordinator, Jack Beetson, said Mr Monzon was invited to the graduation ceremony because the program was based on one that was used in Cuba with great success in 1961.

“Fifty years ago, 90 per cent of their population was illiterate,” Mr Beetson said.

“Now they are the third most literate country in the world.”

The Wilcannia program involved Aboriginal community members teaching literacy skills to participants for two hours a day, three days a week, for 13 weeks.

“It’s the first time it’s ever been tried in Australia,” Mr Beetson said.

“It’s family teaching family.”

Mr Beetson said he had been working in Aboriginal education for 30 years and that “this has been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been involved in.

“Ten of those people graduated which is a marvelous effort when you think about it.”

“This program held on to at least 50 per cent of participants.”

Mr Beetson said he was proud of the efforts of those who signed up for the course.

“It’s a huge step for any adult to step up so publicly and engage in an adult literacy course.

“Without literacy you have no opportunities in life.”

Thirty-two more adults have signed up for the next round of the course which will begin in Wilcannia today.

It is funded by both public and private investment and managed by the University of New England.

Mr Beetson said he hoped to see the program rolled out elsewhere in Australia as well.

“The idea of it being a pilot, if it’s successful which it has been overwhelmingly, you would hope that it would be extended to other Aboriginal communities. 

“It’s just been a huge success and I really do want to thank those people who have supported the program in terms of finances and resources.”

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