El Salvador’s Ministry of Education Welcomes Brigade From the United States
First international volunteers to support the National Literacy Program.
On June 25, El Salvador’s Vice-President and Minister of Education, Salvador Sánchez-Cerén, welcomed a volunteer delegation from CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, at a press event held at Ministry headquarters.
The team of twenty-eight delegates represents the first international volunteer brigade to accompany the National Literacy Program, an initiative of the Salvadoran government that began in 2010, following the election of the FMLN and President Mauricio Funes in 2009.
In two years, over 130,000 adults have graduated from the program, mostly older adults from the rural areas of El Salvador who were denied access to formal education. “The idea is to educate people throughout their lives,” said Minister Sanchez-Cerén. “We’ve discovered that nothing is impossible.”
Over 16,000 Salvadorans – mostly youth between the ages of 15-18 – have already contributed to the program’s success as volunteers. The youngest volunteer teacher, 9-year old Lindsay, spoke eloquently of the importance of community involvement, saying “There are no obstacles to teach nor to learn; everyone can learn.”
The government of Cuba, which successfully eliminated illiteracy in their country through brigades to marginalized areas starting in 1961, has also supported El Salvador’s Literacy Program. A team of specialists from Cuba, which, according the United Nations Development Programme, maintains one of the highest literacy rates in the world, at over 99%, has been working in El Salvador to help adapt the curriculum and methodology to the needs of the Salvadoran population.
As Aida Guerrero, one of the Cuban specialists, explained, “This is the first time that the three peoples of El Salvador, Cuba and the US will work together. We are all Americans and this historic collaboration between our peoples is of immense importance.”
CISPES program director Lisa Fuller presented the Minister of Education with donated school supplies and reading glasses collected by the delegation, stating, “We recognize that the national literacy program has achieved incredible results with limited resources, and for this reason it is a great honor for us to respond to the Ministry’s call for international solidarity.”
The delegates hail from six states in the US, including Washington, DC, Virginia, New York, California, and Massachusetts. Among the diverse group of students, teachers, parents and retirees, over half are of Salvadoran origin, while others have roots in Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Chile and several other countries.
The CISPES brigade will remain in El Salvador for several weeks, working alongside volunteer teachers in both rural and urban communities.