“I stopped going to school when I was in third grade,” says Atim Ewa, 29, who started taking digital literacy classes in Nigeria’s Cross River State. The young man had to rely on his junior brother in order to do the basic accounting and paperwork for the small business that he operates in his hometown because he was unable to read and write. “Every time I had customers, I had to wait for my brother to arrive before I could start doing business. It was not easy.”
UNESCO’s “Revitalizing Adult and Youth Literacy” Project (RAYL) established a pilot digital literacy scheme in Nigeria’s Cross River state in November 2015 to tackle the high illiteracy level in the country. The RAYL Project is committed to the eradication of illiteracy in Nigeria by strengthening national capacity for designing and delivering quality literacy. The project aims to provide basic literacy skills for adults and youth who have been excluded from the formal educational system.
The scheme develops digital content and instructional materials for the learners, proving laptops and handheld devices with integrated learning content. Facilitators are essential to the digital learning process but the project is not restricted within the walls of a classroom. The interactive software allows learners to study in their own style and at their convenient time, making the practice more personal and engaging. The software also lets learners study at their own pace, spending more or less time on lessons to achieve the same level of learning. At the end of the pilot project in two centres in Cross River State, 927 learners had successfully acquired digital learning skills in addition to basic literacy.
Today, things are very different for Atim, who learned how to read and write, as well as essential computing skills. “I can now read well, count my money and produce receipts to my customers,” he says. “My business is growing very well and I’m currently employing eight people.”
In the second Phase of the RAYL project, UNESCO will deliver more digital learning materials to address the post-literacy needs of learners. About 40,000 learners will be provided with ICT driven vocational skills using an apprenticeship system that will be put in place.
Ada Obi is another Nigerian youth who did not get a chance to complete primary school as a child because of her parent’s financial situation. It was one of her relatives visiting from abroad who encouraged her to go and register at a local learning centre. Ada is now learning with a facilitator using a mobile phone and is already able to read and write. “I want to be a nurse and take care of people,” she says. “I’m happy!”
UNESCO has been at the forefront of global literacy efforts since its foundation in 1946. Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. Last year marked the beginning of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to further work on solutions in closing the literacy gap for millions around the world who still lack basic literacy skills.
This year’s International Literacy Day was celebrated around the world under the theme of ‘Literacy in a digital world’.