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The Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) is undertaking an ambitious commitment to educate 25,000 Jamaicans over the next three years.
This will be achieved through a series of programmes designed to significantly reduce Jamaica’s illiteracy rates and enhance the quality of life for the island’s workforce.
Established in 2007, the JFLL continues to enhance the literacy programmes started by its predecessor, the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), some 35 years ago.
Unlike JAMAL, which focused primarily on the eradication of illiteracy, the JFLL seeks to promote lifelong learning – a combination of literacy, numeracy and life skills – as an option for the estimated 700,000 Jamaicans who are either illiterate or lack a high school education.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank session on Wednesday (June 4), JFLL Executive Director, Edward Shakes said, “improving education is the key to increasing worker productivity and improving Jamaica’s competitive edge in the global market place.”
Citing a recent survey, which identified the agricultural sector as having the highest level of illiteracy in Jamaica, Mr. Shakes pointed out that it was one of the sectors targeted by the JFLL in its Workplace Programme. He argued that, “one of the reasons agriculture is the least productive of the sectors has to do with the educational levels of some of those who work in the farming sector.”
Given the renewed focus on agriculture Mr. Shakes noted, attention to the levels of literacy in this sector is imperative, particularly in light of the demands for increased productivity as well as the introduction of new technologies.
Indicating that the JFLL had already begun to impact the workforce in some sectors, Mr. Shakes outlined that sections of the sugar and banana industries, and the mining, manufacturing, packaging and processing sectors as well as some inner city communities, and persons living in bauxite mining areas are benefiting from the programme.
Keen on promoting lifelong learning as an investment in human capital, the JFLL Head said that his organization was committed to the preservation of long term investment in the traditional education sectors. Short term investment in adult education he said, is key to the maintenance of long term investment in early childhood and secondary education; crime fighting and the reduction of production costs in industry. Lifelong learning, Mr. Shakes explained, will “make good citizens, help people to understand career goals and live better lives.”
The JFLL caters to Jamaicans who are 18 years and over, and require functional literacy skills. There is no criteria for entry, however applicants are assessed and placed in one of four levels according to their reading and numerical skills.
In addition to the Workplace Programme, which is supported by corporate Jamaica and aims to improve the levels of literacy in organisations, the JFLL offers a basic literacy programme comparable to the Grade Six Achievement level; a Life Skills Programme to enhance the literacy component and a High School Equivalency Programme (HISEP) to enable those without formal education to earn one. Like its predecessor, the JFLL owes the success of its staff to the commitment of its network of 250 volunteers.
The JFLL operates from 29 learning centres in all parishes, and also in scores of town and church halls across Jamaica. In order to carry out its mandate, however, the organisation needs an additional 350 volunteers.
Persons who have skills in adult education, training, management or administration and would like to volunteer, may contact the JFLL at 47b South Camp Road, or by telephone at 928-5181-6 or 759-1845-6.