International Literacy Day 2017
The UN International Literacy Day will be celebrated on September 8th with the theme ‘Literacy in a Digital World’. The Day is used to strongly draw attention to the necessity of literacy skills in every sphere of human interaction and development. Africa has the lowest adult literacy rate whereby many parents (especially mothers) cannot help their children with homework. Throw into the mix the fact that Africa has the highest number of out of school children who either do not enroll for formal education and/or who drop out from schools before the completion of secondary school studies. It then becomes obvious that for the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved in Africa, especially Goal 4 - inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all – every stakeholder needs to be engaged for urgent interventions so that the continent can key into the 21sts century knowledge society properly.
Furthermore, we live in an increasingly digital world. Many activities take place online - from reading for formal and informal education, shopping, getting a ride to making friends and connections and belonging to social communities. Definite skills are needed to fully and meaningfully navigate these processes successfully online. Computer literacy skills imbues one with the knowledge and ability to use the computers and the attendant software application packages. Digital literacy encompasses computer literacy and the knowledge and ability to use those skills to go online to read, create, connect, collaborate and advocate following appropriate behavioral strategies. Digital literacy skills also enable one to effectively search, locate, retrieve, evaluate and use information from online sources and databases.
However, digital literacy skills build on traditional literacy – the ability to read, write, understand what is written and numeracy skills. Libraries play definitive roles in building literacy in communities as they provide community members of different ages with increased access to reading materials and other literacy-forming resources. The presence of Libraries of all types gives people the opportunities to be around books and information resources in different formats and this encourages reading thereby boosting literacy skills through increase in reading proficiency and vocabulary development. Libraries also help newly literate people not to relapse back into illiteracy as they get assistance and materials that will enable them to go on practicing the newly acquired skills.
African libraries now assist not only in building traditional literacy but also provide opportunities for students at all levels of education, office workers, business men and women, market women, artisans, entrepreneurs, senior citizens and job seekers to learn about digital technologies and how to effectively use them to communicate, seek and exploit opportunities as well as collaborate and connect for better living.
As the world celebrates the International Literacy Day, African Library & Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) the trusted voice for the African library and information community enjoins all libraries – academic, school, public and community, research and special to roll out the drums and pass on the message to their communities of users that ‘Literacy in the digital world can be and is better achieved through libraries’.
Digital skills in a library
Libraries are hereby encouraged to plan and hold activities on September 8th showcasing how libraries can help their communities gain digital literacy skills – trainings, workshops, seminars, displays etc. Pictures, videos and audio clips of these activities will be welcome as libraries tag AfLIA on Facebook,(https://www.facebook.com/aflianetwork/) @AfLIACon on Twitter or sent by email with attachments to AfLIA’s communications Officer at email@example.com. AfLIA will broadcast the efforts of libraries as we all team up to celebrate the 2017 International Literacy Day and build a literate and knowledgeable Africa.
A librarian Jude Nwangele of Afikpo Zonal Library, Ebonyi State Library Board takes a laptop to teach digital skills to rural women as part of the Beyond Access/IREX intervention in Nigerian public libraries.