The 'SMS-based Adult Female Literacy Programme' has so far enabled over 4,000 adult females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to read the newspaper, write in Urdu, perform everyday calculations and gain necessary life skills. This was disclosed in a showcase event here on Wednesday organised by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS), in collaboration with Jazz and GuarantCo, to share the success of their mobile-based adult female literacy programme, and the lessons learnt from the programme, which can be utilised for the similar projects in the future.
The 'SMS-based Adult Female Literacy Programme' under the combined efforts of I-SAPS, Jazz and GuarantCo, has so far enabled over 4,000 adult females to read the newspaper, write in Urdu, perform everyday calculations and gain necessary life skills. This is being done with the help of four specifically-designed textbooks and freely-given mobile phones in eight districts of KP, namely Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera, Buner, Malakand, Haripur, Mansehra and Kohat, where more than three out of every five females are unable to read and write.
The chief guests for the showcase event included Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom Anusha Rehman, Chairperson Standing Committee on Education Punjab Engr Qamar ul Islam Raja, Deputy Country Head Department for International Development Judith Herbertson, Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education KP Dr Shahzad Khan Bangash and CEO Mobilink and Warid Pakistan Aamir Ibrahim.
"In developing countries, mobile learning has become an effective medium to improve access to education and facilitate the alternative learning processes. Besides improving access, it has also proved effective in evading structural limitations, such as cost and infrastructure, as showcased by the success of the 'SMS-based Adult Female Literacy Programme' in KP," said Anusha Rehman Khan. "The government supports the use of information and communication technology to empower women across Pakistan."
"Our Mobile Literacy project in KP looked to overcome the prevalent social and cultural barriers to female education. The project's success was achieved by respecting the existing cultural and social norms, developing a sense of ownership amongst the local communities in providing basic literacy to their female family members, and introducing innovation," said Executive Director I-SAPS, Dr Salman Humayun.
"We believe that a customised curriculum along with the use of information and communication technologies is the future of sustained learning, especially in areas with low literacy rates." "Our group-wide 'Make Your Mark' (MYM) initiative feeds directly into Mobilink's corporate responsibility strategy by helping young people in Pakistan through technology, expertise and knowledge. This mobile literacy programme is one of the initiatives under the MYM platform, and allows us to utilise leadership position to reach out to those females, who are cut off entirely from the conventional educational system," said Aamir Ibrahim.
"We look forward to continuing our work with I-SAPS and GuarantCo in a bid to empower women across the country, so they too reap the benefits of the ongoing digitalisation across the world." Since community ownership was deemed a cornerstone to make this mobile-based initiative sustainable, active members of the communities were engaged, sensitised and grouped in the form of 154 Village Education Support Committees for their practical involvement in the planning and execution of the initiative.
The members of these committees include representatives from all sections of the community, especially the respected elders and influential individuals. As a result, I-SAPS and Jazz not only had an all-out community support in identification of local female teachers and learners in each of the district, but also managed to establish around 150 easily-accessible adult literacy centres (ALCs), where adult females of ages between 15 and 35 years were enrolled and imparted basic literacy skills.
As the learners gained some level of literacy during their basic literacy coursework, each of them has been provided with a mobile phone in order to practice and further develop their newly acquired skills.
In early 2013, the 'SMS Based Literacy' program won the GSMA's Global Mobile Award in the 'Connected Life Awards' category, and was acknowledged as the 'Best Mobile Education or Learning Product or Service'. The program was highlighted by the competition's jury as an "Excellent and needed mobile initiative with an explicit educational ideology that opens up new learning opportunities for a disadvantaged, rural group."