Loss of literacy funds hurts most vulnerable

A years-long campaign to raise literacy levels in B.C. suffered a serious setback last week

A years-long campaign to raise literacy levels in B.C. suffered a serious setback last week, when 55 communities saw their literacy funding reduced to zero.

As B.C. was coming onto the world stage and preparing for the 2010 Olympics, then-premier Gordon Campbell made the promise that B.C. was going to have the highest literacy level in the world by 2014. The statistics for literacy levels were staggering: more than two-thirds of the B.C. population functioning at either low literacy levels or none at all.

The reasons are varied: some did not complete high school, some are immigrants for whom English is a second language, others have visual difficulties, while others have other physical, mental, or psychological conditions.

Adults with low literacy levels are more likely to be homeless or unemployed, or hold very low-paying jobs.

Not only has the province seemingly given up on the laudable goal of fixing the problem, but Decoda Literacy Solutions, which handles the funding, chose to direct their remaining funding not to the communities that need it the most, but those that have secured other sources of funding through community trusts or local industry.

Literacy Now South Okanagan-Similkameen has been working on the problem since 2007. But with their funding eliminated, they will no longer be able to take on the huge job of co-ordinating and facilitating a task group to handle the job of raising literacy levels over such a large area.

Both the provincial government and Decoda should be ashamed.

By cutting this funding, the province has failed some of the most vulnerable members of society. And Decoda, instead of working collaboratively with the literacy groups to make a more equitable distribution of funds, chose to put the cart before the horse; also leaving the most vulnerable of the groups they were supposed to support hanging out to dry.