VANUATU LITERACY RATE MAY BE LOWEST IN SOUTH PACIFIC

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (October 8, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu literacy specialist Joel Symoh says his country has a lower literacy rate than its Melanesian neighbors, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and possibly has the lowest literacy rate in the entire South Pacific region.

Vanuatu illiteracy, he said, now stands at 64 percent, meaning more than 6 ni-Vanuatu out of every ten cannot read or write.

Symoh made the comments during a literacy workshop on Malekula Island.

The week-long meeting, involving about 100 educators working to increase literacy, was funded by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP.

The governments of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea last year signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in helping solve literacy problems.

Under the agreement, representatives of the three Melanesian nations will meet again in 1999 to review and evaluate what each country is doing to improve the literacy rate of its citizens.

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