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The government program in Cuba was a passionate drive to reach every person on the island regardless of how remote, poor, or uneducated. In April of 1961 100,000 children, many younger than age 15, joined in a massive battle for literacy among the rural poor. For this reason schools were closed until the drive was consummated in December.

Later 140,000 adults joined the campaign. Since Spanish uses letters quite consistently to represent the sounds of Spanish, the teaching materials can be simpler than in teaching English. People often learned to read Spanish in a few hours or days.

Volunteers were told that they would be asked to eat the same food as those they taught, work in the same fields, sleep in the same houses, on hammocks, or dirt floors. Progress was measured by using three tests. After passing, each person wrote a letter to Fidel Castro, informing him of their success. A literacy flag was formally hoisted above each house where literacy was achieved.

On Dec. 22, a massive rally in Havana marked the end of the program. Normal schools were then reopened. UNESCO stated that illiteracy was reduced from 20% to less than 5%.

The differences between the Cuban environment and that of the US are well documented. Especially the inconsistencies of English spelling and our diversity of ethnic groups make the Cuban model impossible to duplicate.

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