Our Literacy Adventures in Africa
Posted by Michele Diecuch on September 20, 2017 in categoryStories from the FieldcategoryWomen's Empowerment

Two ProLiteracy staff members recently returned from a two-week trip to Africa visiting our partnering literacy programs in Kenya and South Africa. Michele Diecuch, director of programs, and Alesha Anderson, a senior program officer for ProLiteracy’s international work, share details from their trip below: 

ProLiteracy has supported literacy programs in South Africa and Kenya for 25 years. We are deeply committed—especially to the tribal and rural areas—to each of these countries and to the many challenges that adult learners face. 

We started our visit in Kenya and with our long-time partner Kenya Adult Learners Association (KALA). KALA is the only adult literacy organization in Kenya that devotes itself entirely to advocating for adult learners, especially women. Most of KALA’s projects are non-governmental, freestanding, neighborhood- or village-based efforts for impoverished and disenfranchised women. Learners in KALA programs originate from 14 different Kenyan communities and speak Swahili, their various mother tongues, and English. The diverse group of learners is made up of rural and urban migrants, semi-arid nomadic peoples, and slum dwellers. 

We were greeted at Nairobi’s airport by Magdalene Gathoni Motsi, KALA’s vibrant founder and executive director. Magdalene is a shining example to women in KALA’s programs. She was an adult learner herself who has fought hard to advance her education and advocate for women and girls’ education in Kenya. 

We visited KALA’s headquarters outside of Nairobi and met with women who were learners in KALA’s programs. We were especially interested in learning more about a pilot program ProLiteracy had supported using Kindles and introducing digital literacy in a traditional literacy setting. Through a partnership with Worldreader, ProLiteracy provided KALA with 25 e-readers loaded with over 100 e-book titles in their native languages. Utilizing the e-readers not only increased learner attendance, but provided a variety of titles to newly literate learners who normally would be very limited with books in their native languages. A number of learners expressed how utilizing the tablets made them digital learners.