Posted by Michael Maloney
For the past dozen years, two courageous Canadians, Dr. Tanyss and her husband, GEM Munro have been establishing “schools” in some of the worst slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the world’s poorest country. Thirty-five million individuals mostly living on a dollar a day in a space just a tiny bit larger than the combined size of Maine and New Hampshire.
 Tanyss and GEM ignored the poverty and moved their family into these slums. They taught women to become teachers in their hovels. More “schools” opened, mainly funded by North American Rotary clubs. Partnerships between Bangladeshi and North American clubs were established. A $90,000 Rotary Global Grant was procured. More “schools” were created. Soon there were 200 mothers teaching a thousand kids their educational fundamentals. At the moment, there are 500-600 Mothers of Intention but far fewer cell phones.
In 2007, International Rotary President Wilf Wilkinson made literacy “an area of focus” for all clubs. More clubs joined our initiative and now the Dhaka students number serve 2,000 kids. Then the Rotary Club of Belleville Literacy Chair, Sharon McConnell in concert with Rotary International Vice President Valarie Wafer and Past Rotary International President Wilf Wilkinson launched a digital literacy program that allowed anyone who can read to teach anyone else to read. No training required. Nesda Technologies, owned by Rotarian Michael Summers built the program to run on cell phones, as well as tablets and laptops. A near perfect tool for the world’s slums.
Pilot projects, funded by Rotary clubs, started in Dhaka and in New Orleans Charter schools. Now the teachers are busy, and the data is beginning to come in. The data is encouraging, but too little to use as proof of concept yet. Fortunately, homeschooling parents have already provided that data during the last year of testing.
This literacy project is scalable. It can just as easily be used to help the 10,000,000 illiterate students currently enrolled in American schools. It will be a boon to teachers for that small group of children in their classroom who are struggling to learn to read. It could be available in libraries, YMCAs, or other civic centres. It will certainly raise the bar for helping communities to fight illiteracy for those Rotary clubs that participate. It serves our motto “Service above self” because it does not require specialized training, just the willingness to help some child learn to read.
The program is being gifted to Amarok Society and New Orleans Charter schools by Rotary clubs who wish to fulfill their literacy objective by gifting a copy of this research backed system, which topped all others in the largest national educational research program ever conducted. For details, email or call 1-877-368-1513.