Paula Lucie-Smith, a Trinidadian, is the founder and CEO of the Adult Literacy Tutors Association, ALTA, an organization which identified an enormous unacknowledged social problem of widespread illiteracy in Trinidad & Tobago, and the West Indies, and has taken significant steps to deal with it.
Mrs Lucie-Smith, a national scholarship winner from St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain, attended Warwick University, and the University of Leicester in England where she took a first degree in History, and a Certificate in Education.
She started her career as a high-school teacher in Trinidad, at the St Augustine Senior Comprehensive from 1983-1987. In 1990, she began teaching an adult literacy class of about 20 people on a volunteer basis, and in 1992, formed ALTA, to offer free literacy training to adults, and to train literacy tutors.
ALTA’s programmes have since grown in number and spread across the country and region. Today, classes are offered at 50 venues throughout Trinidad and Tobago, 59 tutor training courses have been run, and ALTA has collaborated with Servol, the Ministry of Education, the National Library of Trinidad & Tobago, and the prison system. The organization has also been invited to conduct literacy training in Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.
What makes ALTA unique is that all the teaching and training materials are produced by ALTA to be locally relevant and to stimulate and engage local participants. This involvement in the production of learning materials has allowed ALTA’s mission to expand from literacy to include teaching life skills and building communities. Between 1996 and 2001, Mrs Lucie-Smith wrote and edited three series of textbooks: the ALTA Adult Workbook Series, the ALTA Beginner Series, and 18 ALTA Predictable Books.
ALTA has been recognized locally and internationally by institutions like UNESCO, the University of the West Indies, the government of Canada and the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Mrs Lucie-Smith has been awarded the Trinidadian Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2001, and ALTA was selected as a “model for replication worldwide” by UNESCO in 2008.