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Literacy is Key to a Better Life
Published 02/13/2013 by Global Communities
Literacy is Key to a Better Life
“I would encourage anyone else to take the first step. Once you have the knowledge you will see the benefit. It is not just about reading and writing, it’s about taking that knowledge and doing more with your life.”
Yousef Matabaro, 41, is from a poor rural area of Rwanda. Growing up, his family could not afford to send him to school. Only one member of his large family attended school for a short time, but was unable to finish due to the demands of trying to provide for the family. Because he never went to school, Yousef never learned how to read or write, but he always had the burning desire to learn.
In Rwanda, Global Communities is implementing the Ejo Heza program with support from USAID. In Kinyarwanda, Ejo Heza means “Brighter Future.” The program aims to improve the livelihoods and food consumption of 75,000 of Rwanda’s very poor by building the capacity of low-income households to access financial services. To this end, the program facilitates access for participants to health and nutrition training, savings groups, and literacy classes.
Yousef was at church one Sunday in his town outside Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, when he heard the announcement that literacy classes were being offered by Ejo Heza right there at his church. Despite his lifelong desire to learn to read and write, according to Yousef: “It was very difficult for me to make the first step to go to the class. And once I went I was still not sure. I asked myself, ‘Will I make it? Will I be ashamed?’ But after going through the class I realized I can do it.”
Yousef’s class started out small but when students began to tell their friends about the class it gradually doubled. Though the class lasted six months, Yousef only remembers the last four months because it took two months to learn enough letters and numbers to start recording the date and writing down his daily experiences. According to Yousef: “Before, I had to keep everything in my head. Because I could not write it down, I would forget things. But now I write everything down in my book every day. I have already written down that today I talked about learning how to read and write. Now I will remember it always.”
Now that he has graduated, Yousef plans to get a job as a driver, which would have been impossible before he became literate since he could not read any road signs nor pass the written exam required to get a license. He also wants to learn English and French, both widely spoken in Rwanda. He feels this will give him an advantage in the job market. Says Yousef: “After going through the class I realized I can now compete. It is hard to get a job and I had no advantage because I did not go to school. But now that I have the basic knowledge of reading and writing, I have the option of getting a real job. Also, I feel proud that I can read anything after six months. I am not yet good at English or French, but I can read any piece of paper that comes my way in my local language.”
He also plans to help his two children, 15 and 12, with their studies and make sure they attain as much education as possible. They, in turn, plan on teaching him mathematics. He also plans to spend his time helping the teacher of the literacy class with the new group of students that are about to start. Says Yousef: “I would encourage anyone else to take the first step. Once you have the knowledge you will see the benefit. It is not just about reading and writing, it’s about taking that knowledge and doing more with your life.”