ALTA HISTORY AND ACTIVITIES
The Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) was founded in
1992 by Paula Lucie-Smith. In 1990,
International Literacy Year, Paula participated in the volunteer adult literacy
programme established by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
When the programme ended in December 1990, Paula continued running an
adult literacy class in Woodbrook. The
class attracted students not only from Woodbrook but from other parts of the
In October 1992, Paula founded ALTA to bring together adult
literacy teachers to share ideas and materials as well as to direct students to
teachers close to their home or work.
However, those who joined ALTA wanted training in how to
teach adult literacy and access adult literacy books, magazines and teaching
aids from the Caribbean and beyond. In
January 1993, ALTA established a teacher resource library with materials from
literacy publishers and programmes around the world, including the UK, United
States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Jamaica and St. Lucia.
In April 1993, ALTA began to train adult literacy tutors.
Working with British and American training packages and videos (UK Adult
Literacy and Basic Skills Unit, Literacy Volunteers of America), adult literacy
tutors, Paula Lucie-Smith and Hilary Montgomery, aided by local reading
professionals, Wallis Wyke and Zena Puddy, developed a pilot training course.
Today, ALTA trains more than 100 tutors every year.
ALTA 20th Anniversary Function & Long Service Award
In the early days, since teaching materials were needed,
ALTA volunteers Paula Lucie-Smith, Hilary Montgomery and Marie-Louise Brown-Dottin
began to compile their lessons into books, thus creating the ALTA Adult Workbook
As of 2005, ALTA had published 60 books, ranging from
8-page ‘predictable readers’ for beginners to the 110-page Tutor Training
Handbook. ALTA has also produced a
set of local board games - the ALTA Caribbean 6-in-1 Game Pack.
This game pack was launched in 2002, the year of ALTA’s 10th
NATIONAL STUDENT REGISTRATION
To attract students, ALTA launched the first national student registration on International Literacy Day, September 8th, 1994. Along with prospective students, key persons in the field of literacy were invited to ALTA’s Open Day. Pamella Benson and Lynette Commissiong, who then headed the Trinidad and Tobago public library system, attended, and on that day the partnership between ALTA and the libraries was forged. From the following year 1995, every September students have been able to register at libraries throughout Trinidad and Tobago for ALTA classes, creating a truly national student registration.
By September 1995, there were official ALTA classes.
ALTA was no longer just a teachers’ association, but was responsible
for running classes. As such, ALTA began to provide supplies for teachers and
Teachers now receive supplies ranging from a blackboard
duster and chalk to pre-cut cards for games and printed phonic and sight-word
cards for each student. Tutors also
have a tutor’s book with detailed lesson plans and guidance on how to teach
every aspect of each lesson. Also
available for class use are wooden alphabets, sets of dictionaries and
high-interest, low-level readers for students who want extra reading practice.
To ensure quality teaching at all venues, an experienced ALTA tutor,
called the Class Coordinator, is assigned to each class to guide the volunteer
tutors. This tutor visits the class at least once a month and gives
practical assistance in the classroom.
NATIONAL LITERACY SURVEY
In 1994, with the assistance of Market Facts and Opinions,
ALTA carried out the first National Literacy Survey in Trinidad & Tobago.
The results, published in January 1995, revealed a major literacy problem
among the adult population. These
results were later supported by a UNESCO-sponsored survey, conducted in December
1995. Both surveys found that
22-23%, or 1 out of 4 persons in Trinidad and Tobago, were unable to cope with
basic everyday reading and writing.
ALTA founder, Paula Lucie-Smith, and Board member Rhona Harris
WORKPLACE LITERACY EDUCATION
As ALTA established itself on the national level, employers
began to seek its services in improving the literacy level of employees.
In April 1998, ALTA established a Workplace Education Branch with
guidance from Kaye Grose, a volunteer of Canadian Executive Services Overseas (CESO).
Kaye conducted two 4-day training courses in developing and implementing
a workplace literacy programme. Ginnie
Denny, from Workbase (New Zealand), held a 1-day workshop in November 2004.
Experienced ALTA tutor, trainer, coordinator and office manager, Arlene
Wallace-Romero, now runs this branch of ALTA.
ALTA HEAD OFFICE
In January 2000, after six years of fundraising
ALTA PROGRAMMES FOR TEENS AND YOUTH
With the move to Belmont, teachers from the schools around
the ALTA office appealed for help with teaching reading in their schools.
Since ALTA does not provide free classes for anyone under the age of 16,
a sponsored project was developed to serve the needs of our home community.
In 2002, the Embassy of Japan and British Petroleum of
T&T (bpTT) funded a one-year pilot project to train interested teachers from
ten primary and seven secondary schools in the ALTA teaching approach, and to
provide free ALTA books and learning aids to complete one ALTA literacy level
for those children experiencing reading problems.
Forty-two (42) teachers were trained in 2002, with most of them
implementing the ALTA Programme in their schools.
With no support from the Ministry of Education, only Aranguez Junior
Secondary, Belmont Junior Secondary and Melville Memorial School continued with
the ALTA programme when funding for materials ran out.
The ALTA Programme was also successfully used to teach
students aged 10-15 years in a Rotary-sponsored project for out-of-school
children (2000-2002), and, since 2004, in a Coca Cola-sponsored programme at
Credo Centre, All-in-One Child Development Centre and Holy Name Training Centre.
Youth aged 16-25 years use the ALTA Programme at the Servol Skills
Training Programme and at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
ALTA AND THE PRISONS
In January 1998, at the request of prison authorities, ALTA volunteers began teaching Port of Spain prison inmates who wanted to improve their literacy. In 2001, on the initiative of prison officers, ALTA conducted a tutor-training course at Carrera Island Prison for fifteen (15) literate inmates. The success of this programme led to its extension in the three other prisons: Golden Grove Men’s Prison, Golden Grove Women’s Prison and the Maximum Security Prison at Arouca. By 2002, fifty-eight (58) trained volunteer ALTA inmate-tutors were teaching the non-literate inmates to read and write.
Tutor training, materials and on-going ALTA guidance were
initially sponsored by the IADB, the British High Commission, Caribbean Money
Market Managers and Imjin Security. As
these funding sources dried up, ALTA appealed to the government to include
literacy in the budget for prison rehabilitation. Some funds were eventually received from Government in June
2005 and ALTA resumed the programme in September 2005.
AWARDS EARNED BY ALTA