#NewHorizons with Oando Foundation

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    In commemoration of the International Literacy Day 2017, with the theme: ‘Literacy in a Digital World’; Oando Foundation, shares its perspectives on the global consensus on digitizing literacy as articulated through UNESCO:

    1. What are the different dimensions of literacy in digital societies, for which increased attention is required?

    Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. Globally, 750 million youth and adults cannot read and write and 250 million do not have basic literacy skills. There is an urgent need to close the literacy gap for millions around the world who still lack basic literacy skills.

    In today’s world where digital technologies are taking over the way students learn and assimilate knowledge it is imperative that we start moulding citizens who can effectively utilize today’s digital tools. According to UNESCO, “literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world”

    At Oando Foundation, we believe that students need to be equipped with the right digital tools to enable competitiveness in 21st century. Digital literacy encompasses a set of competencies and skills that allows individuals develop numeracy, listening, speaking, reading, writing and critical thinking skills for the digital environment.  In order to get to our young ones competitive and ready for the job market, it is critical for governments and education stakeholders to embrace digitalization and equip schools especially public schools with the right tools to make this happen.

    1. What are the implications of digital technologies for policies, governance and financing for literacy?

    School pupils in Nigeria face barriers to quality education and ultimately literacy. These barriers include but are not limited to education costs, shortage of classrooms/dilapidated classes, obsolete teaching aids, gender bias and limited exposure to technology. Working in the education space, the need to bridge the digital divide in public schools is glaring albeit the mass of opportunities that exist for children in private schools.

    In order to adjust to learning styles in a digital world, it is essential that education stakeholders tailor the curriculum for greater efficiency, innovation and most importantly greatly focus on STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

    Adaptation will be required in our national curriculum and teaching styles. Governments and stakeholders need to ensure that children enroll in school at the right age. Importantly too, there is a huge need to invest in teachers and to embrace achievable, workable, long term solutions that help the public education system grow and evolve with the changing times. Financing implications however are huge.

    1. How do literacy programmes need to adapt in a digital world, in terms of delivery modes, curriculum, teaching-learning methodologies, materials, teachers and facilitators, language used, as well as monitoring and evaluation?

    The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 advocates for equipping young people and adults with relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for decent employment and entrepreneurship by 2030. A collaborative approach is needed to tackle the literacy and education challenge, if Nigeria is to achieve the SDG4 target. Oando Foundation was recently appointed as the first private sector partner by the Universal Basic Education Board. This role entails working with the Board to identify areas of reform in the existing Nigerian ICT curriculum and prioritize use of technology in subject learning, beyond basic computer appreciation skills.

     

    The Nigeria Vision 2020 document has outlined plans to make the curriculum in schools more relevant to the needs of the labour market with emphasis on ICT diffusion and targeted skills development. In turn, there has been a large response by the public, private, and civil sector to address the transforming educational needs of Nigerian youth such as the introduction of audio-visuals in classroom learning, digital media programmes, distribution of educational tablets to students, and training of teachers in modern literacy skills.

    1. What are the opportunities and challenges to make literacy programmes available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable to all?

    The opportunities available to entrench digital literacy are numerous and so also the challenges. As the world advances rapidly into a digital era, it is important that individuals are able to access and utilize technologies such as the internet and mobile phones and use same to enhance literacy.

    Digital technologies, according to UNESCO, have altered how people learn, live, work and interact. But unequal access to technologies also means that “the broader development benefits associated with the rapid technological advancement are unevenly distributed across and within countries”

    ICT tools allow pupils and their teachers a level of flexibility to research, explore and infuse global perspectives that enrich their learning experiences. Digital learning continues to strengthen communication and critical thinking skills, enabling diverse technology-driven success in today’s world

    1. How can digital technologies change the ways literacy skills are assessed?

    It is still common place however to see pupils and teachers, especially those in public schools, being guided by obsolete curriculum that encourages a docile, theory-focused learning content, limiting creativity and innovation among students.

    Beyond the inclusion of ICT in the national curriculum and provision of computer equipment to schools; prioritizing digital learning in fun and creative ways for young people and their teachers remain a vital tool for promoting comprehension through visual displays, and passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

    1. How is your organization contributing to the promotion of Literacy in a digital era?

    Since 2014, Oando Foundation has designed innovative programmes to empower marginalized Nigerian pupils with technology skills that will lead to their ultimate financial empowerment and prepare them for the 21st century workforce.  Oando Foundation has as a core component of its interventions, the establishment of ICT Centres in all adopted public primary schools to ensure pupils are exposed to technology early.

    Partnerships have been key in pushing our technology agenda at Oando Foundation. We have partnered with various organisations including Coder Dojo Ireland, US Consulate Nigeria, Theirworld, Sumitomo Chemical Japan to provide modern technology resources, introduce coding and computing skills to teachers and pupils with special emphasis on girls.

    To date, Oando Foundation has adopted 80 schools across 23 states in Nigeria, distributed 5,000 teaching aids, donated over 10,000 books and learning materials and facilitated training of over 1500 teachers in public schools. Over 60,000 pupils now have access to improved learning environments.

    …till next Tuesday….

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