UNESCO: Digital divide slowing literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa

2021-09-07 18:58:46

Lack of access to computers and electricity is impacting negatively on literacy across Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a report issued on the occasion of the International Literacy Day has revealed.

The report by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNSESCO), titled 'Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide' notes that in sub-Saharan Africa, says only 7.7 percent were estimated to have a computer at home while household internet access in the region is still limited with a rate of approximately 22 percent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the worst disturbance to education and training systems in a century, with the longest school closures affecting more than 1.6 billion learners at its peak time, UNESCO notes in the report.

Additionally, UNESCO says the pandemic and its repercussions have also magnified the pre-existing inequalities in access to meaningful literacy learning opportunities, disproportionally affecting 773 million non-literate young people and adults. Out of these high number of people lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills, 27% live in sub-Saharan Africa and 9% in North Africa.

Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, the African Union’s Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, says that “the pandemic had reinforced the importance to transform education systems across the continent through digital education.”

Speaking in May this year, Mr Firmin Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations, UNESCO, warned that the pandemic is pushing 34 million Africans into extreme poverty and stressed the urgency of making distance learning more effective, supporting teachers and co-creating the future with youth. “Today’s spirit of celebration and innovation across Africa must continue to be harnessed to support the continuity of learning with investments in our youth, technologies and educational actors to build a better future for the continent,” he said.

International Literacy Day is an international observance, celebrated each year on 8 September, that was declared by UNESCO on 26 October 1966 at the 14th session of UNESCO's General Conference. It was celebrated for the first time in 1967.

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