By Funmi Ogundare
A senior lecturer in the Department of Adult Literacy Education, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Blessing Anyikwa has called on the government to invest more in, and equip adult and youth literacy centres with the infrastructure and technologies needed to adapt to a digital environment.
She said efforts must also be made towards providing facilitators and learners with the skills to function well.
Anyikwa made this known during a virtual commemoration of the International Literacy Day with the theme ‘Literacy Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond Especially the Role of Educators and New Pedagogies’, organised by Lagos State Agency for Mass Education.
She said facilitators need re-training, and learners need to know how to use online space while embracing learning anywhere and anytime.
“Virtual learning should be a habit on a daily bases for both facilitators and learners. Digital skills are now central, a new sort of basic skills, deeply intertwined with digital learning. These skills need to be learned by facilitators and then the learners over time.”
The don said the COVID-19 crisis has been a wake-up call for stakeholders of adult and youth literacy education and has shown what can be done with technology.
She said it has also accelerated the reality of trends that were already in place to help the youths and adults in the teaching/learning process as well as labour market transformation to the digital economy.
“Without a doubt, COVID-19 has come to shake the world. Now it will be a question of analysing the lessons that have been learned during this time and determining what will have to change beginning now,” Anyikwa stressed.
The Director of the agency, Mrs. Kemi Kalesanwo said her office, with basic components such as mass literacy, continuing remedial education and vocational/skill acquisition, is saddled with the responsibility of reducing illiteracy rate to the barest minimum in the state.
The COVID-19 crisis, she noted, has been a stark reminder of the existing gap between policy discourse and reality.
“During COVID-19 in many countries, adult literacy programmes were absent in the initial education response plans, so most adult literacy programmes were suspended. However in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is passionate about adult literacy, approved literacy by radio programme (Mooko Mooka), which is aired on Radio Lagos every Wednesday and Saturday.”
The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab said the International Literacy Day was aimed at highlighting and promoting the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights to individuals, communities and societies, as well as advancing literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.
He noted that the forum will provide an opportunity to reflect on and discuss how innovation and effective pedagogies can be used in youths and adult literacy programmes to face the pandemic and beyond.
“It will also give an opportunity to analyse the role of facilitators, as well as formulate effective policies, systems, governance and measures that can support facilitators and learning.”
In her paper titled ‘Bridging the Gap between Policy and Reality in Adult Teaching and Learning in COVID-19 Crisis’, the Chief Lecturer, Continuing Education, Literacy Education and Community Development, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Dr. Joke Ajayi said the importance of literacy to sustainable development goals of any nation cannot be overemphasized, considering the need to sustain the achivements made.
She suggested strategies for bridging the gap between the government policy on adult literacy and the reality of COVID-19 crisis to include distance learning through radio and television, small group learning, self family learning, each one teach one, learning with a facilitator on the phone.
Another way, she noted is sponsoring the creation of apps to aid the teaching and learning of adults at the least cost and convenience.
“While it is believed that COVID-19 will not remain with us forever, it is expected that the government should do all that is required to ensure that the gains already made in adult literacy in Lagos State are sustained during the subsisting COVID-19 crisis.”