Literacy Day 2019: Literacy and Multilingualism

JulietEducation in KenyaLeave a Comment

Literacy Day 2019

International Literacy Day was celebrated on September 8, 2019. This year’s theme was Literacy and Multilingualism. Eneza is a digital learning platform targeting a majority of the underserved market because of its unique USSD/SMS technology. With 70% of our learners being rural residents, we encounter language barriers among our learners. 

This is both a challenge and an opportunity, depending on the perspective you view it from. We learn from our daily challenges, so as to focus on the opportunities they present. The opportunity lies in the fact that our technology acts as an opportunity to learn new languages such as English and Swahili. 

Our work with nonprofits and foundations that sponsor refugee learners is an example. Our technology acts as an easy introduction to a new language while providing supplementary access to quality educational material. Most of the sponsored learners on our learning platform Shupavu291, are refugees of Somali and South Sudanese origins. English therefore, is not a language of instruction for learners in their countries of origin. In Somalia for instance, the main languages used are is Arabic and Somali. Shupavu291 enhances their acquisition of English and Swahili languages, as well as raising their literacy levels. 

We also encounter the issue of language barriers in our interactions with customers daily. Our customer care team sometimes has to address parents in their local languages.

For a long time in Kenya, there has been a debate to change the language of instruction in rural areas to local languages. It has however not been implemented in policy, with many schools still punishing children who use their mother tongue to communicate in schools. This is set to change with the new competency-based curriculum (CBC), which will explore the use of mother tongue as a language of instruction in lower primary school.

Meanwhile, learners report that Shupavu291 has been instrumental in improving their language learning. An example is 63-year-old Marclus Njeru, who was looking for good literacy content to improve his command of the English language and to enhance his education. He takes more than 20 lessons per day on the Shupavu291 in English and Swahili, to help him in reading his bible. 

Shupavu291 enables learners like Marclus to gain this knowledge with simplified lessons that are easy to understand. Shupavu291 SMS learning platform is also easily accessible, by dialing a USSD code, *291# on any Safaricom phone. 

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General’s remarks on International Literacy Day, “Our world is rich and diverse with about 7,000 living languages. These languages are instruments for communication, engagement in lifelong learning, and participation in society and the world of work”.

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