International Literacy Day 2023: The Pursuit of Lifelong Learning for a World in Transition
By Melody Moraa, Intern, Action, PAL Network
“The ‘My Village’ project emerged as a response to address this learning crisis, a commitment to uplift communities one village at a time, ensuring no child was left behind.”
On September 8, 2023, PAL Network hosted an enlightening gathering on X spaces, commemorating International Literacy Day 2023. Picture this scene: Paul Abok (Assistant Program Officer, Advocacy and Communications, PAL Network) and Ira Mohanty (Program Officer, Action, PAL Network), the event’s moderators, opened the virtual doors to a global audience, extending a heartfelt invitation to partake in the profound observance of International Literacy Day. Winny Cherotich (Action Manager, PAL Network), Benjamin Masebo (Program Officer, Uwezo Tanzania), Pramila Bisunke (Program Manager, ASER Nepal), and James Mburu (Program Officer, Ziziafrique Foundation) stood ready as panelists to shed light on PAL’s ‘My Village’ project and its importance in promoting literacy in an ever-changing world.
Our moderators began the event by emphasizing its roots dating back to 1967 when it was designed to be poignant reminder of literacy as a fundamental human right, as well as the bedrock of prosperous and sustainable societies. However, the moderator’s opener did not shy away from acknowledging the mounting challenges facing global literacy in the wake of climate change, the impact of COVID-19, and various humanitarian crises that continue to test the resilience of educational systems worldwide.
The insightful discussions began with our moderators posing a question that cast a sobering light on the event’s central theme: “How does the My Village project contribute to nurturing a culture of lifelong learning and supporting Sustainable Development Goal number 4?” Winny Cherotich helped the audience embark on a journey through the history of the PAL Network, a Global South Network of 17 member organizations committed to ensuring every child has a foundation for lifelong learning. She emphasized that the organization’s initiatives were grounded in meticulous research, often revealing stark realities, such as the disheartening fact that 202 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa lacked basic literacy skills. The ‘My Village’ project emerged as a response to address this learning crisis, a commitment to uplift communities one village at a time, ensuring no child was left behind.
In discussing the case of Kenya, James Mburu illuminated the profound impact of foundational learning. He extolled the virtues of technology in the My Village project, noting its pivotal role in advancing educational outcomes. His insights extended to the vital importance of parental engagement, a cornerstone in the edifice of foundational learning. Pramila Bisunke offered empirical evidence from Nepal, where the ‘My Village’ project identified the magnitude of the literacy challenge. She elucidated how the project not only diagnosed but also treated this affliction through the various project components, preparing children for the challenges of an ever-evolving world. Benjamin Masebo shared touching anecdotes of community involvement in Tanzania. The communities there rallied behind the cause, providing sustenance and transportation to children attending the learning camps, fostering an environment where education thrived.
James Mburu described the intricacies of the Accelerated Learning Program in Kenya, unveiling a comprehensive system that propelled over 80% of learners towards improvement, showcasing the power of dedicated intervention. Ira, with heartfelt sincerity, recounted her firsthand experience in Nepal, where the theory of the Accelerated Learning Approach, executed through the ‘My Village’ project, was transformed into reality. She painted a vivid picture of children immersed in learning, not just through books but also engaging in educational games, while parents showed unwavering support by ferrying their children to and from the learning camps. Community spaces were generously offered by communities to facilitate the project. Pramila further delved into the challenges faced in Nepal, especially in the remote provinces, where floods and landslides had displaced communities, posing significant barriers to education. She unveiled the innovative concept of movable libraries, leaving the audience captivated.
The dialogue culminated with an engaging Q&A session, where the audience eagerly discussed their thoughts and opinions with the panelists. A resounding call to action echoed through the virtual space, urging all to remain informed, participate actively in PAL’s initiatives, and champion the cause of literacy wherever they tread. In this reflection upon International Literacy Day 2023, the gravity of the topic mingled with a profound sense of purpose, uniting minds from across the globe in a shared commitment to illuminate the path toward a more literate and equitable world.