Adult Literacy

By: Rafael Reyes

My second day in El Salvador I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a woman whose life has not been easy; a common situation for many people in the developing world.  She has a son and a daughter together with her husband.  She lives in a very humble home.  Their house consists of four walls made of different materials; sheets of scrap metal, wood and plastic.  However, in this small place where she and her family live, something great is happening.

Although she does know how to read and write and her husband only has a 2nd grade reading level, they relentlessly encourage their children to take every advantage possible toward education.  Day after day their children listen to their parents stories, which are marked with struggle and difficulty.  The purpose of these stories is not meant to burden their children but to teach them that, “Life without education is difficult,” a common refrain in their home.

The experience of their parents is an experience of many adults and parents around the world.  Although adults desire to participate in the formal education with their children and formation of their community, those who cannot read and write are extremely limited.  The difference between education and no education alienates parents from children, individuals from society and entire communities from the outside world.

Adult literacy is one of the many social issues found not only in El Salvador but also in all the developing countries.  This mother is right when she says that education will create more opportunities for her children, however education should not be equated with a better job or the sole ability to read and write.  Education produces a free human being toward a free humanity.  Therefore a free person becomes an active agent in the formation of their local community, surrounding society and unto the rest of the world.  We have but a short time here, but during that time we hope to participate with this mother, as well as others so as to bring about change.