Varied factors culminate in the development of nations, with the foremost being the development of the citizen, with literacy as the means to promote individual well-being. The cascading effect is the contribution of the individual to national development.
In addition, literacy is a great gift and a medium for the transformation of life, which we often take for granted. It remains one of the transformative tools which empower humanity to take advantage of opportunities and prevent people from walking with a lowered brim.
Where literacy is not prioritised, people, communities and nations lag behind in development. On the contrary, where education is perceived as a common denominator of change and prioritised, the multiplying effect on the individual is immeasurable, and on society incalculable.
We celebrated International Literacy Day yesterday on the country-specific theme: “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces for quality, equitable and inclusive education for all”.
The theme calls for the transformation and diversification of learning spaces. The outbreak of COVID-19 led to the sudden transitioning of teaching and learning from the known traditional classroom learning to digital.
The International Literacy Day was initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to consistently remind and relentlessly drum home the relevance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human right.
Hence, through the commemoration, the challenges of illiteracy are localised where literacy begins. Again, it is a reminder to the international community of the importance of literacy and the need to intensify efforts to expand literate societies. Therefore, the responsibility to eliminate illiteracy is given a threshold and draws attention to societies.
During the COVID-19 period, schools were shut and replaced swiftly with a switch to digital platforms. Countries which lacked the infrastructure struggled with literacy, while we were all faced with the reality of losing decades of knowledge gained.
It calls for resilience, resolute and robust and time-tested strategies to withstand future eventualities. More importantly, the Ministry of Education turned to digital learning to save education in Ghana. But, the raft of measures served the formal educational sector, while the non-formal educational sector struggled in the face of the limited spaces.
The sudden switch and shift to digital learning to save decades of knowledge gained, which came under threat of COVID-19, presented the opportunity for innovation and a risk of further widening the disparities among the youth and adults worldwide.
Fortunately, the Complementary Education Agency had started the family literacy programme. The strategic approach was to get around and open up opportunities and the learning spaces that the COVID-19 outbreak came to limit.
The strategy helped to continue with the facilitation of literacy programmes. However, it raises the relevance and sharply brings to the fore the need and urgency required to build community learning centres in all 16 regions.
For researchers, here lies an opportunity to explore the outcomes of digital learning and virtual classrooms and how best to accelerate student learning after the gap.
For classroom teachers and librarians, this transformation could be more literal and physical: How can you change the way learners are using your space to access learning?
And let’s not forget families, caregivers and communities at large who should consider how best to centre and promote literacy and guarantee access to quality, appropriate and inclusive reading materials for all readers.
In addition, for the transformative impact of literacy to be realised, we need to address the issue of disproportionate access to Information and Communications Technology, since the rapidly changing world requires diverse literacy learning spaces that permit learning at the workplace, community, family, library and digital levels which recognise the informal and the non-formal.
It will create flexibility, proximity and ease of access to literacy learning spaces. This will require allowing outcomes of literacy learning from informal and non-formal spaces to be recognised, validated and accredited from data-driven monitoring and evaluation processes.
Nonetheless, we need to deal with issues of inclusivity and equality, which have further widened by the digital transformation of the literacy learning spaces. It will ultimately lead to a change among the youth and adults stuck in poverty and gender inequality.
In the wake of a challenge as tumultuous as a worldwide pandemic, we are presented with the opportunity to forge a new path forward. Let’s not let this opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate literacy education pass us by in a rush to return to a comfortable but no longer appropriate “normal”.