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Adult education in digital age

By Kirsten Kanja | October 17th 2021

Adult Education students in class in Olking'e sub-county, Laikipia North. [Jenipher Wachie,Standard]

When adult students Philemon Kirui and Joab Okanja scored top grades in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2016, it was a message of hope to those who had long given up on their dream of continuing with education.

Kirui, who was a photographer at the time, attained a B+ and said he wanted to continue with his studies to progress his career and increase his salary.

Okanja, on the other hand, a hairdresser, was thrilled at the big step he had taken, eager to finally have an answer for those who ask him for his qualifications every time he seeks to better himself.

Okanja had dropped out of school in Form Two due to financial constraints after his father died.

“You go to the field and they ask you for papers. ‘Where are your papers, ‘where did you go to school’, potential employers would ask, and I couldn't present anything,” Okanja said in an interview, adding that balancing his time between work and school was the biggest challenge.

The hairdresser, who has two children, scored an impressive A-. And the two are not alone in their pursuit of literacy and further learning - the number of literate adults has been rising.

In September, the Ministry of Education noted an increase in the literacy rate of the country, which went from 61.5 per cent in 2007 to 78 per cent this year.

The improvement was attributed to a sustained Adult Education programme, free primary and day secondary education leading to enhanced access.

Speaking during the International Literacy Day, Director General of Education Elya Abdi said one of the major difficulties people who cannot read and write face is navigating through the various digital platforms required to perform simple tasks nowadays.

“The growth and adoption of digital platforms for the transaction of all manner of business created more difficulties for people who cannot read and write. This occasion affords us an opportunity to relook the role digital platforms play in sustaining and expanding the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills when the normal educational environment is disrupted,” he said.

The Ministry also noted that many girls had dropped out of school after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a move blamed on early marriages and pregnancies.

However, a drop in adult education enrolment was also noted by the government last month.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in its economic survey report stated that total adult education enrolment went from 209,082 in 2019 to 180,395 in 2020.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) last month highlighted the importance of promoting digital skills as a part of literacy in today’s increasingly digitised society.

“The rapid shift to distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a steep rise in technology-enabled literacy learning, which has generated increased demand for digital skills,” the September report by UNESCO reads in part.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini said: “We are no longer in emergency mode but rather adapting to a new reality of working, living and of course learning, with unprecedented reliance on technology. We are learning the ropes of resilience to face uncertainty and shape a more sustainable and fair future – one that leaves no one behind.”

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