“Digital illiteracy affects employability, innovation, development and it elevates the gender- equality gap”
My name is Blessmore Chikwakwa and I’m a 29 years old youth leader from Zimbabwe. Growing up, in Primary school, I had my own personal library at home; while I was fortunate to get lunch money here and there, I never used it for anything other than the purchase of books. I bought second hand books and magazines and I had close to 200 books, I bought myself. I remember how I would rush home after school to read my books and how I knew each one of them and when one was missing. I remember the joy of reading a new story every time I got hold of a new book, the joy of getting lost in a story and the wonderful smell of books. Today, it is sad that children rarely touch a book or even read e-books and sad still is that a seventh grade student still struggles to differentiate eyes and ears, and how they still struggle to read simple words and even struggle with spellings and meanings. And while they can speak perfectly, they struggle to read and write. For some it is because they do not have access to books and some can only read for the limited time they are at school.
The importance of digital literacy
As important as it is that people learn to read and write, equally important is that they are also digital literate, as the world continues to transition and settle more into the digital age. The domination of technology in our daily lives indicates the importance of digital literacy for both adults and children from a very early age, and using technology safely. Digital literacy has become essential and it is a concern that most adults in Zimbabwe struggle with the basics of using a computer. Digital illiteracy affects employability, innovation, development and it elevates the gender- equality gap. Zimbabwe has been moving into the digital transformation like any other country, and the country has been facing a lack of human resources with the right skills necessary for digital transformation. It is unfortunate that a lot of people are unprepared and lack the knowledge and skills which has hindered people from fully utilising opportunities available on digital platforms especially when the digital world now affects and has changed our daily life including how we work, learn, do business, communicate and access information and public and private services. Technology skills are much-needed in the classroom and in the work place, and lacking digital skills mean there are many things you cannot do or access while those with the digital knowledge and access to the internet are able to go ahead. Digital literacy is important right now, will continue to be, well into the future.
The impact of the Youth Ambassador Program
I learned about the World Literacy Foundation after searching for Youth Opportunities online, and joined the World Literacy Foundation Ambassador program because I wanted to raise awareness about the importance of education and being literate and I wanted young people to be able to find youth opportunities online that could help them grow as leaders and become change-makers in their communities as I did. During my first year as a literacy ambassador I was able collaborate with my fellow ambassadors and helped organize a focus group for school children for Cinglevue’s Seat at the Table (SAT) project in collaboration with UNESCO to include the students’ voices in shaping the future of education.
Using the knowledge gained from the WLF ambassador program, I figured I would help reduce the numbers of those who do not have access to books by writing a children’s book titled Flowers in the Morning that teaches children about the importance of protecting the environment. I have also continued working with the University of the People as a student ambassador, raising awareness on the right to quality education and free education. And also to introduce young people to the University of the People, a free online University, so that they earn a degree which improves their employability and reduces the cycle of poverty. As, a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), I volunteer my time to make sure that girls and women are literate when it comes to issues that affect them such as, climate change, so that they know what it is and what they can do to take action in their communities through organising and participating in tree planting, clean-ups and climate education, they also learn about Gender- Based Violence (GBV) so that they know GBV is wrong and a violation of their rights and should report such acts and Action on Body Confidence/Free Being Me, so that women and girls have self-esteem and are confident to speak out and lead. I feel it is important that girls and women learn about the above mentioned topics because gender inequality is also a major contributor to illiteracy among women.
What is great about the WLF Ambassador program is the training itself, each study module is unique and brings insightful information. There is also the interaction and sharing of ideas with other ambassadors and the fundraising and advocacy part which is the most practical and fun-filled part of the program. To all those contemplating joining the World Literacy Foundation, this program is not only for those who are starting their advocacy and activism journey, it is a community for all change-makers to collaborate, share ideas, inspire and get inspired and most of all create change in our communities.
Author: Blessmore Chikwakwa