Last week, on the invitation of Ministry of Education, I represented Government Citizen Interaction Centre at the three-day (20th, 21st, and 22nd – August) 11th Pan-African Literacy For All-Conference convened at Kampala Serena Hotel under the theme; “Literacy: A Bridge To Equity,” This was the second time for Uganda to host this important conference, with the first having been in 2003.
This conference which is considered the most famous in the field of Literacy in Africa brings together people from all over the world to discuss how to improve literacy levels through accessible, equal and quality education for all.
Literacy is the ability to read and write. While so many people have limited literacy to only English, the ability to communicate in any language is literacy.
“I would rather communicate in a local language that I am very conversant with than communicate in broken English,” said Dr. Robinah Kyeyune, Lecturer Humanities, and Language Education Makerere University.
Attending this conference was such an honor for me and a chance to learn, socialize and network, there were plenty of lessons and inspirations to pick up. I can’t forget the story of a one 14-year-old Amazing Grace Kirabo, born to a healthy mother who three years later lost her sight to a strange disease, little Kirabo, being the firstborn had to grow up at a really young age. So much had to change despite the risks that came with changes like walking herself home from the bus stop at a tender age.
“I once came back from school in the evening and found my mother in the same spot I had left her, I knew darkness had come even when it was still day. I now resorted to telling her stories to cheer her up, the most amazing memory of my childhood is the fact that my mother smiled and cheered up to my stories,” narrate Kirabo.
Kirabo then started putting together her stories into a book and I can proudly refer to Kirabo as an author, at the age of 14, her confidence, fluency and charisma are essential to bridge the literacy gap.
It is believed that there is a direct link between the literacy rate and the development status of any state. I, therefore, like to commend the government of Uganda for its deliberate effort towards improving literacy levels.
In January 1997, the government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE), following a political commitment by the President, that government would meet the cost of primary education for four children per family.
However, it was later opened up for every child to access primary education, this increased enrolment in primary schools from 3.1million pupils in 1996 to 7.6million pupils in 2003.
This was then followed by the introduction of Universal Secondary School in 2007 making Uganda the first Sub-Saharan African country with USE.
In 2011, Uganda joined the Global Partnership for Education, an organization that creates access to education in developing countries.
Uganda then launched initiatives like helping girls stay in school while menstruating, Early Grade Reading (EGR) program which targeted teaching learners from Primary One to Primary Three to read effectively using the local language as a medium of instruction, transitioning to English as a medium of instruction in Primary Four, and guaranteeing education for refugees among others.
The country’s literacy level is currently at 75%, this is believed to be a result of an expanded education system with various literacy initiatives. It is important to note that Uganda currently boasts of over 3,858 secondary schools, 19,718 primary schools, 142 Technical and Tertiary Institutes, and 45 Universities. In the year 2016/17, universities produced 17,895 graduates.
A great man once said, “The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book,” I commend the Reading Association of Uganda (RAU) for averting this belief. RAU was birthed in 1998 by concerned literacy professionals out of the realization that the Ugandan reading culture had been nose-diving, so I commend them for lighting the candle and keeping it burning, kudos!
In a nutshell, I could refer to the basic importance of reading as a way for one to grow mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Every book gives you an opportunity to learn new things and explore new ideas. Reading books increases your knowledge and makes you smarter which is the reason everyone deserves to be equipped with the ability to read and write.
Written by Elizabeth Kabibi a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.
NOTE: This Opinion was first published by Equator News