Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces
Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have been taking place around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda toward a more literate and sustainable society. The right to basic education is a fundamental human right recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was ratified by Nigeria in 1991. Despite progress made, literacy contests persist with over 700 million illiterate people worldwide, mostly women and girls still lacking basic reading and writing skills. This loophole increases their chances of vulnerability.
Education makes it possible for individuals to access other human rights. The aftermath of the pandemic truncated the progress of global literacy efforts in the past years, where nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women (source: UNESCO).
To bridge this gap and ensure no one is left behind, there is a need for us to enrich and transform the existing learning spaces through an integrated approach and enable literacy learning from the perspective of lifelong learning to ensure quality, equitable and inclusive education for all.
This year’s ILD is themed, Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces. It is an opportunity to call on the government, critical stakeholders, and the public to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build inclusive education for all. The big question is “how can we achieve that”?. The existing literacy learning spaces are classroom, family, workshop, community, and online. Before now literacy and learning spaces were designed without consideration of how students learn best. Today, however, research has shown effective ways to build a learning environment for children. For example, auditory processing of information was considered conducive to learning, but research has shown that visual information processing is highly conducive to learning.
To answer the previous question on how we can transform the literacy learning spaces, is by checking if the current learning spaces promote learning – asking questions like; Is the classroom big enough? Are students engaged in a meaningful task? Is there ample access to technology? etc. We need to start looking at the existing spaces and begin to make changes to improve them. Government, parents, teachers, and community members need to think creatively, engage critically and mobilize to take advantage of the learning spaces available. Books, posters, art, and other resources should be strategically available to stimulate learning in children. The second step in transformational change is by identifying who needs help. Children with disabilities and low-income families have fewer opportunities to participate in educational programs. There is a need for learning spaces to incorporate inclusive practices that make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
The way forward
We can make changes when the government should prioritize education by ensuring that it receives appropriate funding and the funding is fully utilized. Also, schools, parents, and the community needs to develop clear policies around literacy and learning spaces for all, make bookshelves available, build colorful classrooms, use wall charts at home or in schools, create conducive learning spaces, encourage the use of digital resources at home, use digital or physical tools depending on the type of learning space, and create a space where all learners feel valued.
The importance of education in every society can never be over-emphasized, literacy is an essential tool to eliminate poverty, lowering child mortality, population control, and attain gender equality. Helping someone to feel safe, to read and write effectively helps in communication and improves the future of everyone in society. Literacy is crucial for economic development as well as individual and community well-being.
Written by Maureen Aggie Alor