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By: María de las Nieves Galá

Leonela Relys Diaz does pass unnoticed, though she tries. What she has accomplished has had an impact on thousands of people from different countries who will be grateful to her for all their lives, because they have learned how to read and write.

During international events dealing with education, I have witnessed the warmth felt for her by men and women from around the world.

On various occasions I have been able to listen to Aristobulo Isturiz, Venezuelas minister, say with emotion, "Leonela, we love you!" And these expressions of affection have not been fortuitous.

They have has been evoked simply because Leonela was the creator of the Cuban literacy method "Yes, I can," a low-cost and flexible instruction technique.

Leonela was born in Cubas Camaguey Province, and since she was just a little girl she was able to learn that teaching meant care, humanism and tenderness. She was a member of the Literacy Campaign in Cuba in 1961, but at that time could not even imagine that decades later she would be able to contribute to the eradication of illiteracy, sometimes in different languages and cultures.

For this woman who is an adviser to the Literacy and Education Department of Young and Adults at the Latin America and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute ( IPLAC) and a candidate for a PhD in Pedagogical Sciences, this is undoubtedly the most collective human endeavour ever witnessed in the field of education. "It is the work of millions; that is why we are happy."

She continues by saying the Cuban method is fairly new, since it was developed three years ago. However it has evolved considerably and applied in more than 15 countries, where its value has been proven.

"In 2001, President Fidel Castro suggested that we create a small booklet which we could use in teaching by television. Right from that moment, we began to work, do research as to discover the pedagogical basis of this idea.

"I remember we worked night and day as a multidisciplinary team. We made the booklet in Haiti, where I later collaborated, where the project was introduced."

She goes on to say that from there variant of the program was created with a Latin American character, because the goal was to include the whole region using television.

Afterwards, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez requested the methods adaptation and contextualization, which we did it in 2003 for the first time, "Yes I Can" was applied in that country where there are more than a million and a half people who have used it to learn how to read and write. Venezuela went on to become an "Illiteracy-free Zone" in 2005.

To date, the program has been contextualized for Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentine, Mexico, Brazil and Grenade, among others. "We are working with indigenousness languages such as Quechua and Aymara.

She said this program allowed the creation and organization of a strategy and understands that the governments will is not enough; there is also the need for mobilization and everyones real support, because if individuals do not decide to learn how to read and write, it is impossible to stem illiteracy."

The Cuban method is inexpensive, flexible and serves without any exclusions whatsoever - allowing itself to be adapted to any country or community.

The method not only takes into account the language, but also culture, music, traditions, habits, intonations and the vocal inflections, she notes.

The highly skilled Cuban professor does not try to impose the program, but embraces diversity to contribute to the elimination of illiteracy, that terrible blight that even in the 21st century continues to affect humankind.

Source: Cubarte


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