Venezuela’s “Mission Robinson” Literacy Program to Increase Focus on Senior Citizens

Venezuelan senior citizens are to benefit from a new stage of the government’s free ‘Mission Robinson’ literacy program, which promotes full literacy in the country’s population.

By Ewan Robertson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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The announcement was made at the 2nd Congress of Literacy and Post Literacy held in Caracas this week (AVN).
The announcement was made at the 2nd Congress of Literacy and Post Literacy held in Caracas this week (AVN).
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Mérida, November 10th (Venezuelanalysis.com). Venezuelan senior citizens are to benefit from a new stage of the government’s free ‘Mission Robinson’ literacy program, which promotes full literacy in the country’s population.

“In revolution there cannot be one single citizen that Mission Robinson hasn’t attended to...we have an important group of people over 61 years of age who have still not achieved literacy, due to this Mission Robinson must go to them”, stated Venezuelan education minister Maryann Hanson as she announced the program extension, while calling on senior citizens to register for reading and writing classes.

Launched in 2003, Mission Robinson achieved the literacy of 1.5 million Venezuelans in its first two years, with Unesco confirming Venezuela as an “Illiteracy Free Territory” on 28 October 2005. The illiteracy rate for adults aged 21 - 60 now stands at 0.4%.

However the Venezuelan Ministry of Education estimates that there are still around 400,000 senior citizens mainly living in the country’s most remote rural areas who have yet to benefit from Mission Robinson, which utilises Cuban teaching materials in a method called “Yes I can!”

The president of the Mission Robinson Foundation, Marisol Calzadilla explained that motivational factors often impede the incorporation of older adults into the program:

“A lot of the time we have to go into the communities to convince people to lift themselves out of illiteracy, because they don’t think they are entitled. However, we will continue doing this until there isn’t a single citizen who hasn’t been attended to,” she said.

The program extension was announced at the 2nd Congress of Literacy and Post-Literacy, which ran from Monday to Wednesday in Caracas this week and brought together regional coordinators, facilitators, and students of Mission Robinson to develop the program’s strategy in the coming years.

Conference participants worked on plans and agreements to develop the new initiative so that this group of senior citizens can be incorporated by early 2012.

The conference also covered the themes of diversity and underprivileged communities.

One participant was 61 year old Ruth Veleño, a student and spokesperson of the program, who spoke of the impact that Mission Robinson has had on her life: “Knowing how to read and write is such a great change, for me it’s as a new experience, I’m living a new life, I feel young, I feel capable of anything”.

Veleño, who started the program 4 years ago and is now in its 5th grade, continued, “I say to all of my patriotic fellow citizens that it is never too late, that they should do what I did, I didn’t know how to read and write and today I aspire to go to university”.

Among the social gains made by senior citizens during President Hugo Chavez’s administration, recent government statistics show that pension recipients in Venezuela have grown by 472% in the last 12 years, although due to working in the informal economy or being cheated by employers, some senior citizens are still without pensions.

A new social program aimed at dealing with the needs of senior citizens, from social security to age-related health problems, was also announced last month by the president.