Venezuela will celebrate Wednesday a decade of having been declared free of illiteracy by UNESCO.
Illiteracy was wiped out thanks to the efforts of the Venezuelan government, led by the late Hugo Chavez, which placed great emphasis on educational initiatives throughout his time as president, a priority that has been continued with the current government of Nicolas Maduro.
“By declaring a territory free of illiteracy, Venezuela is making its most significant contribution to our common goals towards education for all. The achievements of the Robinson Mission would not have been possible without the political will and support at the highest level possible and for that President Hugo Chavez deserves warm congratulations,” said Koichiro Matsuura, then UNESCO director-general on Oct. 28, 2005.
The Bolivarian revolution, led by the late Chavez, sought to build a participatory democracy that would include more of the population in decision-making.
However, Chavez believed it was necessary for Venezuelans to be able to read and write in order to fully participate in the political life of the country, which was undergoing a massive shift from previous neoliberal policies that had largely excluded major segments of the population.
Venezuelans who did not know how to read or write were taught through an innovative program known as Mission Robinson, the first education “mission” created by the government and launched in 2003.
Robinson Mission was itself inspired by the efforts of the Cuban government to eliminate illiteracy there after the triumph of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro. It was named after Simon Robinson, the Venezuelan intellectual and teacher who helped educate and heavily influenced Simon Bolivar, who later helped liberate much of South America from Spanish rule in the 19th Century.
Before the work of the Robinson Mission, 1.5 million Venezuelans were considered to be illiterate and 2 million had not finished primary school. The latter would receive their primary education through a separate program known as Mission Robinson II.
A third education program would be launched, known as Mission Ribas, to provide high-school-level certification and Sucre Mission would be created to increase asses to university-level education.
In July of this year, the supervisors and facilitators of Mission Robinson were integrated into the ministry of education in order to guarantee they would earn a living wage.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of being declared free of illiteracy, Venezuela will host an international congress on literacy efforts.