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Literacy Program Strengthens Civic Participation in Bolivia

After learning to read and write, a Bolivian woman is inspired to play a more important role in her community. The woman is one of thousands who have taken advantage of literacy programs across the country.
​Two years ago, Agustina Aracapi couldn’t read or write. Now, thanks to the USAID-funded Alfalit International literacy program, not only can she write her name and read at a fourth-grade level, but she also has gained the confidence to run for city council.
“Learning to read and write has made me feel more important in my society,” said Agustina, who lives in El Alto, which is adjacent to the country’s capital, La Paz. “I can now read the newspaper and not rely only on what other people tell me.” She and her fellow students are conscious that by learning, they are setting an example for others in their communities. They can play more important roles in their families, work, and their society as a whole.
 


The Alfalit program uses a flexible model for adult students. To date, more than 15,000 students have received literacy training — nearly three-fourths of whom are women. In groups of five to 20, participants attend class for six hours each week to learn reading, writing, and math skills.
 
The Bolivian Ministry of Education recognizes the program, which is geared toward earning a high-school diploma, as an alternative precursor for public school programs.
 
To take the classes, Agustina and others like her must leave work to attend classes. Her instructor, Elvira Zegarra, said the students have “made a huge sacrifice for their future’s sake. I tell them selling more in the market instead of coming to class is a short-term gain but, right now, by attending these classes they are investing in their future.”
 
The Alfalit International literacy program is part of the USAID Strengthening Democratic Institutions project, which worked with the Bolivian government and civil society to facilitate more productive engagement.
 
“What our students learn now is going to last them for the rest of their lives,” said Edwin Condori, regional coordinator of Alfalit Bolivia. “We have seen enormous change in our students after graduation; they feel confident and empowered to participate actively in society…just like Agustina.”

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