Dr Rhoda Arrindell

Rhoda Arrindell: Literacy is a right and responsibility

Rhoda Arrindell-Rotary_July 15_2014GREAT BAY, St. Martin —“What can we do to eradicate illiteracy from our midst?” asked linguist and educator Rhoda Arrindell at the recent meeting of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten Mid-Isle.
Businessman Louis Wever said that The Rotarians invited “a very good speaker, Dr. Arrindell, who updated us all about literacy in our country St. Maarten and where we stand now.” And Rhoda Arrindell had wasted no time in pointing to the club’s eagerness “to do something in this area” of “literacy as a right and a responsibility.”
“Given your track record, I am convinced that you too can make a huge difference in helping to combat illiteracy on our island,” said Dr. Arrindell in her speech. The Mid-Isle Rotary Club also brings together business and professional leaders for community service projects. July is the chapter’s Literacy Month.
“I would suggest … a pilot project that you could start in a district such as Cay Bay, Middle Region, St. Peters or Dutch Quarter, where I believe the problem may be most acute. I will be most willing to volunteer my assistance in designing such a program, should you need me,” said Dr. Arrindell, who has been active for nearly 30 years with volunteer and professional work in education, culture, conferencing, and sports organization.
While sharing World Bank and the territory’s Census figures with the Rotarians and their guests, Arrindell said that, “Statistics for St. Martin (South) are unfortunately hard to find, but my experience in the field points to the fact that illiteracy – both adult, that is over 25 years old, and youth, from 15 – 24 years old – is at an unacceptable level.”
“In fact, according to the 1992 Census figures for our half of the island, the number of illiterates at that time was 1,938 out of a total of 22,631 persons who were not attending school,” said Dr. Arrindell.
“In my opinion, even if that figure were to remain the same today, it would mean we have to close to 2,000 people who cannot read or write in our midst. That would account for almost three seats in Parliament if all of them were able to vote in the coming elections! I will allow you to draw your own conclusions from that,” said Dr. Arrindell.
Rotarian Wever said that Dr. Arrindell’s information, which went further than the usual definition on the subject, was “a very good update for everybody.”
According to Arrindell, “Literacy today is not limited to the ability to read and write alone. There are various other forms of literacy … foremost among them being digital or computer literacy. Add to that financial literacy, science literacy, health literacy and even emotional literacy and … low levels of literacy, and by extension, of education in general, constitute an impediment to the economic and social development of a country in this fast-changing Information Age, in which technology rules.”
Veronica Jansen-Webster, the Rotary chapter’s PR officer, said that, “Dr. Arrindell enlightened the club members and guests present about the state of literacy on the island. She also presented a copy of her latest book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin, to Mr. Wayne Wilkie, the president of the club and provided another copy, which was raffled amongst the members present” at the July 15 dinner meeting.
Following the meeting, Rhoda Arrindell asked her publisher, HNP, to contribute three sets of the pioneerseries booklets to the Mid-Isle Rotary for the club’s planned literacy presentations to schools and the mental health foundation. The junior scholastic booklets are about “non-traditional” nation builders of St. Martin, Saba, and St. Eustatius, said HNP president Jacqueline Sample.

Full House, Standing Ovation at Launch of Dr. Rhoda Arrindell’s Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin

Author Rhoda Arrindell at St. Martin Book Fair’s closing ceremony, talking about her research findings in the new book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin. (Courtesy Garret Hongo)
Author Rhoda Arrindell at St. Martin Book Fair’s closing ceremony, talking about her research findings in the new book, Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin. (Courtesy Garret Hongo)

GREAT BAY, St. Martin —With His Excellency drs. Eugene Holiday, Governor of St. Maarten and his wife in attendance, the closing ceremony of the 12th Annual St. Martin Book Fair will long be remembered for the standing room only audience which rose to its feet to give Dr. Rhoda Arrindell a warm ovation following her reading excerpts from her book, Language, Culture and Identity in St. Martin, published by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

The book was launched Saturday evening at the Chamber of Commerce building in Concordia, Marigot, to round off this year’s edition of the Book Fair. The eager audience of over 200 people quickly snapped up the available copies of the book.

It would be the second standing ovation of the day, following a similar one accorded exiled West Papua freedom fighter and independence movement leader, Chief Benny Wenda at the President’s Forum held earlier in the day at the University of St. Martin.

Two young St. Martiners opened the book launch evening by reading the poems they had composed at a writing workshop conducted earlier by visiting author, Nicole Cage. This was followed by “grassroots poet” Raymond Helligar giving a recital that had the audience in stitches for his colorful use of the St. Martin vernacular. This set the stage for the presentation of Dr. Arrindell’s seminal work based on her doctoral thesis that earned her a summa cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico.

At the end of her presentation, Pulitzer Prize finalist, US Professor Garrett Hongo gave a concise, thought-provoking review of Dr. Arrindell’s book, praising her research and analysis of the language situation of St. Martin.

Preview copies of Language, Culture, and Identity in St. Martin are already at Van Dorp, SPDbooks.org, and Amazon.com, said Jacqueline Sample of HNP.

While giving the “thank you” address, Coordinator of the Book Fair, Conscious Lyrics Foundation president, Shujah Reiph, recalled his earlier visit to the Point Blanche house of detention where a visiting author had gone to speak to the inmates. Reiph implored the audience to do everything possible to prevent their children from ending up behind bars.

“Prison is no place for our young men,” he stressed, as he called for the public to work with the Book Fair Committee to ensure that this situation is reversed.

Highlights of the Book Fair also included a sunset cruise, complete with jazz music by Fred York and his group, on the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which most of the visiting writers, who read from their works during the cruise, found innovative, unique, inspiring, and creative.

The St. Martin Book Fair is organized by the Conscious Lyrics Foundation and the House of Nehesi Publishers in collaboration with St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, University of St. Martin, LCF Foundation, and St. Martin Tourist Office. The SXM Airport, SOS Radio, and SDL Heavy Equipment are major sponsors of the St. Martin Book Fair 2014.