Empowering the nation through digital literacy.

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· United Way and IBM offer to help the Zongo communities.

This is our moment in time to shine to become more than what we thought we could ever be; this is the nation’s time with destiny to be free of illiteracy in all its forms. In promoting World Literacy Day 2017 (at the Muslim Counselling Centre, Kawokudi Park, Kanda, Accra, September 7, 2017), this thought was racing through my mind in my address to the Imam, chiefs, elders, and parents of the Zongo community on “The role of digital literacy in realizing one’s potential”.

September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1965. This year being the 50th year celebration, the program was planned to encourage people to appreciate literacy and adult learning in a digital world.

Digital education for global citizens

It was a great honour to have shared the dais with the chairman of the Zongo chiefs, Chief Imoro Baba Issah, his vice Chief Osman Jackson, Mrs Alhassan Andani, and Angela Kyerematen-Jimo, the country general manager for IBM. What a delight it was to have met Angela, a proud product of both Wesley Girls High School and Achimota, and the first woman in Africa to be appointed managing director of IBM!

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The writer with the chiefs and elders of the Zongo community

Generally, literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that allows one to communicate effectively with others. I noted that the ability to write and read especially in this digital era is key to being both a national and a global citizen. One can be as eloquent as kings’ and chiefs’ linguists; however, without the ability to read, write or share one’s ideas, we leave scant reflections of our thoughts and deeds for posterity.

Additionally wider communities everywhere needed to be sensitized to appreciate and advance the skills to use digital tools among students, teachers, government officials, civil society, and so on.

Protecting children

Of course, there are legitimate concerns about the uses and abuses of IT everywhere, even as they relate to children. That creates the necessity to educate teachers and other stakeholders to guide children with the discipline and protocol in using the internet and social media. Access to a world of information and ideas is the order of the day for every country, without exception. Countries that have succeeded first taught and guided children with the discipline and the appropriate behaviors in the uses of IT.

IT facilitates problem solving abilities and creates a lifetime of opportunities to develop the gifts and talents of everyone. It was so refreshing to hear the elders themselves express the desire for their generation to be taught those skills which I shared my interest to partner with IBM Ghana to do.

United Way Ghana

United Way Ghana is dedicated to supporting individuals and communities to achieve their potential through quality education. Considering the busy state of Zongo communities on Fridays, it scheduled its event on Thursday 7th September, a day earlier, to enable maximum participation by community members. The main objective was to increase the awareness and importance of IT in education, and to help redirect the negative use of digital devices to laudable causes. It sought to empower children to use technology to improve basic education in East Ayawaso, and to sensitize community members to appreciate the role of IT in improving basic education.

United Way’s volunteers were to engage the children in various activities and talk with them about learning to become proficient in technology and skills that could lead to rewarding careers and futures. The focus was to include a seminar on the advantages in the use of digital devices; launching on to the internet with little or no assistance based on the childrens’ grade levels; a demonstration on how to use the online search engine and office application tools; exposing the children to online resources (courses, books, templates, etc); and opening up a social media account using a digital device.

This year’s World Literacy Day event was an opportunity to advance the knowledge of digital tools among young people and expose them to digital processes they can employ to improve learning and research in deprived areas.

IBM Ghana and CoderDojo

CoderDojo is an initiative by the CoderDojo Foundation based in Ireland with the vision to promote ICT and encourage learning and development in a fun, friendly, safe, supportive, and enjoyable environment. [Check information about the CoderDojo Foundation: https://coderdojo.com/]

IBM Ghana CoderDojo started as part of the company’s goal to champion the advancement of ICT skills in Ghana which is in line with the “IBM Africa Skills Initiative” aimed at enabling the existing and future African workforce to develop skills in the new disruptive technologies.

Since October 2016, IBM Ghana has run weekly coding classes at the IBM Ghana Office, which have been attended by local children aged between seven (7) to seventeen (17) years. The training is conducted in partnership with IBMers in Ireland and in Ghana.

These students, referred to as the Ninjas, are trained in basic programming and coding languages like HTML, JAVA, CSS, etc. The company’s aim is to extend this to under privileged kids and to this end the 3rd session of the coding classes commencing in October 2017 will include kids from the Nima in the Ayawaso East Sub Metro of Accra.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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