<<<Mr. Paul McWeeney/Managing Director BOB
By Alex Dorsett, DP&A Media
Nassau, Bahamas: In the largest donation of its history, Bank of The Bahamas pledged $250,000 over a five year period to fund literacy research at The College of The Bahamas (COB), a project with results that are expected to filter down into classrooms across the nation to improve the most basic skill required for success, the ability to read and write.
The partnership between the bank and the college, announced at a March 12 press conference at COB, will finance the National Literacy Diagnostic Research Centre, headed by Dr. Ruth Sumner, who has spent 10 years studying literacy. The largest corporate grant in the college’s history for research, the research it enables helps propel COB toward university status, and will be a pet project of COB President Janyne Hodder, a former reading teacher who believes the information it will reveal in how best to teach reading will bolster the basic foundation of education. That was the intention when COB put out the call for a partner for the 5-year program.
“Bank of The Bahamas has answered the call and will participate by being part of the solution to a major national challenge,” President Hodder said. “We thank the Bank of The Bahamas deeply and sincerely for their role as we proudly announce their wonderful corporate gift today.”
Bank Managing Director Paul McWeeney said the bank accepted COB’s invitation to partner because the ability to read and write determines success or failure and fosters or frustrates national development
“We need good roads and we need a well-developed infrastructure. We need solid police protection and strong borders,” he said. “But above all, we need every child born and living in The Bahamas to know how to read and write – and when they don’t, we need to find out why. “That is what this program is about. That is why when we were approached by The College of The Bahamas to fund the Literacy Diagnostic Research Centre we leapt at the opportunity…because we understand how absolutely critical it is to understand why our literacy rate is what it is so we can begin to improve it.”
According to Dr. Sumner, the country still boasts statistics showing one of the highest literacy rates in the world, 95%. National test scores and basic reading and writing skills tell a different story, she noted. Uncovering the real rate of literacy is a first step as the program explores best teaching methods and aims, ultimately, to impact how reading and writing are taught in every government school as well as providing information that other institutions can use. In the room surrounded by those who hold master’s degrees and doctorates, the contrast between researchers and subjects was outlined in sharp relief, young men and women whose chances of a good job were slim because they could not fill out a job application or those who could not score high enough on a standardized test to get into college.
“Transformation and innovation of our public education system is arguably our most pressing national challenge,” said Dr. Linda Davis, COB Vice President for Research, Graduate Programs and International Relations. “We see evidence of the challenges faced by our public education system through the low participation rates in higher education, in high rates of youth unemployment and increased level of youth violence and crime.”
If increased crime and higher unemployment are linked in some way to the inability to read and write, unlocking the shackles of illiteracy is high priority.
“Today, as we unveil this partnership between The College of The Bahamas and Bank of The Bahamas…we open a new door and write a new chapter in both our histories,” Mr. McWeeney said. “We open the door to a world of life’s chances. Why do I use the word chances? Because that is what education does for us. It gives us the chance to be who we want to be. It gives us the chance to contribute to productive society But we cannot have that chance if we are unable to read and write. Doors are closed in our face. Contributions we could have made will never be known, a discovery we could have made that might have saved a life or turned the planet a bit more green might never be made in our lifetime. An illiterate population is a population that is doomed to wallow in its past; a literate population will gallop toward its future.”
The Centre, to be located in a large converted classroom equipped with lab equipment and testing materials and software, is expected to open almost immediately.