Margarita Forquera is a very courageous old woman who, at the age of 80, can say that she has finally learned to read and write thanks to an educational programme on the radio. She is the proof that it is never too late for literacy and it is always an improvement in the quality of life. This is her story!
Like Margarita one year ago, 758 million people around the world still don’t know how to read or write, according to UNHCR. And although the number of illiterate young people has fallen by 25% in the last two decades, there are many people who can’t read messages from their family, signs on their way home, or enjoy reading a book. Promoting education ensures that we have more educated and critical people who are able to analyse the social and governmental issues that affect them in order to act. That’s why it’s so important to fight illiteracy!
Originally from the small village of El Nihuil, Mendoza (Argentina), Margarita Forquera was a child from a humble family. As she could not access education, she started raising goats from a very young age. All her life, Margarita had been walking the streets of her hometown without knowing the names of the streets or what was written on the posters. Mother of 12 children, she made sure that all of them went to school so that they wouldn’t miss anything that life had to offer them.
Margarita had always been a very curious woman, so when one of her daughters sent her a magazine every month, she couldn’t help but wonder what those people in those magazines meant, where those pictures of dreamy places would be from, or what she would be missing.
So after 79 years of living with illiteracy, Margarita decided it was time to change that. Grandma Margarita was determined to go to school! She joined the adult program at the San Rafael school; however, with her age, the rural area where she lives and the sudden changes in weather, going to school every day was complicated. The problem extended to the rest of the students or potential students.
This way, Luis Grassi School in San Rafael created an educational program to teach to read and write to adults and the elderly, such as Margarita, through classes taught on the local radio station. The teachers went to the homes with notebooks, pencils and a single guideline: pay attention to the radio!
The program consists of 3 lessons per day of 15 minutes: the first one was given in the morning and it was a reminder of the previous day’s lesson. The second – at noon – was a new lesson. And the third was a repeat of the last class. In addition, the students have some notebooks designed to give lessons by radio in which the letters were associated with colors to avoid confusion. Today, the radio literacy programme in El Nihuil keeps expanding: “In 2017 we had about 15 students through this system. Of all of them, today 10 are already in school at our school”, said Cabaña, director of the Grassi School and one of the main promoters of the radio program (Infobae).
At first Margarita was ashamed to say that she was almost 80 years old and she couldn’t read nor write, but thanks to the support of her family and neighbours she continued with her challenge. And after a year, it’s her courage that encourages others to learn to read and write. Now she can enjoy her magazines without having to imagine what they say!
Margarita is still on her way to learning and the educational programme has more and more students attending school in her centre, showing the rest of the world the importance of literacy for a better quality of life. But above all, showing everyone that it is never too late for literacy!
We hope that on International Literacy Day Margarita’s story has made you reflect on the importance of literacy as an engine for progress and change in societies. We all deserve to have a basic education and the same opportunities to access this right!
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