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Covid-19 and Adult literacy: Nigeria Case Study by Omokide C. Iheoma

ByNews Editor

Sep 18, 2020

Written by Omokide C. Iheoma

“Literacy Day focuses on Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies this theme is apt for the time as certain adaptive measures must be laid down. – Omokide

Education is a human right and a force for sustainable development and peace. Every goal in the 2030 Agenda requires education to empower people with the knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity, to become economic self reliant and contribute to their societies.

A good number of youth and adults are unable to play their full part in the social and economic life of their communities and nations because they lack the skills to read or write a simple sentence nor make simple calculations though some of them drive the economy with their physical strength.

Literacy is a key driver for sustainable development. Without literacy and numeracy skills relevant to your daily life it is impossible to fully participate in society, stay healthy and escape poverty. This is true for all ages and not just children of primary school age. It is not something that has diminished in importance over the last few years.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 target 4.6: by 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy and Indicator 4.6.1: proportion of a population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex.

The issue of literacy is a key component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development hence the goal 4 ensures inclusive and quality education. In reality how inclusive has education been especially considering adult learners?

International Literacy Day (ILD 2020) focused on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.

The pandemic is a severe aide memoire of the existing gap between policy and reality. With some stakeholders in education adjusting plans for education in their various states and nation at large adult literacy programmes were absent in numerous education response plans this negates the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 4 which promotes universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives and has as one of its targets to ensure all young people achieve literacy and numeracy and that adults, who lack these skills are given the opportunity to acquire them.

This brings to bare that being literate and numerate as a right in itself, is often forgotten because it interacts with so many other human rights – health, freedom of expression, to vote and participate in democratic processes, just to name a few.

I sometimes wonder if it is also linked to the fact that policy makers around education and development who are literate themselves – forgets these critical mass of young adults who missed the opportunity to learn this vital skill and are leveraging on second chance opportunities presented to by ( Adult literacy programmes) with girls in high numbers should be assisted to continue learning.

The brunt of the pandemic crisis on adult literacy and its teaching and learning has been enormous. Learning centres have remained closed for the months and minimal support for learners. The adult literacy programme has basic components such as mass literacy, continuing remedial education and vocational/skill acquisition, the National Mass Education Commission and State agencies of mass education saddled with the responsibility of reducing illiteracy rate to the barest minimum in the state and nation should invest more in, and equip adult and youth literacy centres with the infrastructure and technologies needed to adapt to a digital environment.

“ILD 2020 focuses on Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies this theme is apt for the time as certain adaptive measures must be laid down.

Facilitators and learners must be provided with skills to function well. Facilitators should be retrained on digital technology teaching and online space learning for learners.

This approach was used by (Educating Nigerian Girls in New Enterprise ( ENGINE) a GEC / DFID funded programme with Mercy Corp as it lead implementing partner in Nigeria and Tabitha Cumi Foundation the FCT implementing Partner)ENGINE II actively worked with the FCT DME to improve learning outcome of about 1570 girls in 27 communities in the FCT with established learning centres and various categories of learners. With restrictions imposed by the federal government due to the pandemic, the program trained facilitators and learners in online adaptive teaching and learning methodology and as well as standard operating procedures guiding it. This aided teaching and learning continuity though with minimal challenges.

Government and development partners should see digital skills as basic skills especially for marginalized populace. Relevant stakeholders should inculcate virtual learning as a habit on a daily bases for both facilitators and learners so as to meet up with exigencies of a digital world.

What strategy can development practitioners deploy to bridge the gap between government policy on adult literacy and the reality of COVID -19 crisis?

Facilitating linkages of people to government using the PUSH AND PULL methods of system strengthening where you push government towards the people and pull the people towards the government for the benefit of that one girl/youth or adult who requires the adult literacy services while helping the country achieve its SDG 4 targets. Strategies such as including distance learning through radio which the ENGINE II program deployed too, revitalizing the each one teach one program utilizing the NYSC platform, small group or family learning session, online session via phone.

Encourage creation of teaching and learning app for adult literacy. Community dialogue and sensitization aimed at creating digital learning seeking behaviors amongst second chance education populace. All of these and many more should be deployed in bridging the gap.

This is time for us to ensure that 773 million non-literate adults and young people – two-thirds of whom are women and 617 million children and adolescents who were failing to acquire basic reading and numeracy skills even before the crisis are included in the education response plan. Education must remain equitable.

Omokide Chikodinaka Iheoma is currently the Executive Director, Girl Up Africa Initiative with the Head Office in Abuja, Capital City of Nigeria.

News Editor

Our News Editor, Muyiwa is an information management expert and Development Blogger with more than a decade experience in investigative reporting and journalism. He is passionate about human angle stories to all social issues in Nigeria and Africa.