Promoting Literacy through Mobile Learning Solutions in Somaliland

UNESCO in partnership with Gollis University held a 2 days’ workshop on development of mobile learning solutions to improve literacy in Somaliland from 23 to 24 May 2015 at Gollis University, Hargeisa, Somaliland. The workshop aimed at equipping NGO partners with basic literacy skills through use of mobile phones in Somaliland.

The participants who attended the training were drawn from 3 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) namely: Africa Youth Development Association (AYODA), Solidarity Youth Voluntary Organization (SOYVO); and Horn Youth Development Association (HYDA) that are interested in the use of literacy training through use of mobile phones. 

During the training participants were taken through key issues affecting literacy in Somaliland; mobile learning features and tips used in mobile learning; understanding mobile learning platforms; priority functions of mobile learning solutions; approaches for implementing mobile solution; and, key success factors for mobile learning solution. Also, they were engaged to define the design and functionality of their mobile literacy learning tools.

Mr. Mustafe Mohamoud, Team Leader, Horn Youth Development Association (HYDA) stated that “This workshop has enabled me acquire and understand new concepts on mobile literacy and learning solutions. At HYDA we’ll now be able to develop a strategy on how mobile phones can be used to transform our society. However, we’ll need support to develop the practical software and have more training on mobile learning solutions because technology changes day to day. “ 

At the end of the training, it was noted that critical success factor for customised mobile learning solution is that which revolves around topical issues of interest of the target beneficiaries. This will provide the motivation and relevance to encourage uptake and utilisation of mobile learning solution to improve literacy in Somaliland. Given that high illiteracy rates, it was also noted that the mobile learning solution will need to complement existing literacy programs. Mobile applications preferred were those based on basic/feature phones and that involved SMS-based functions, learning games, stories based on Somali culture, and numeric functions. Furthermore, the workshop identified key ways in which target learners would be attracted and retained including use of audio/visual materials to engage the learners; making resource materials available in Somali; and special programs to reach out to female and to adult learners

UNESCO Literacy Baseline Survey on Youth and Women in Somalia (2015) indicates that Literacy rates in Somalia have steadily declined to a current estimate of 38%. Not only does Somaliland have low literacy levels but a significant gender disparity exists within the literacy levels. 

The Somaliland education system provides for both formal and non-formal education. However, the limited school attendance ratios coupled with conflict-engendered problems have meant that very many young Somalis have missed out on the opportunity of formal education. This according to Evaluation Report on Global Evaluation of Life Skills Education Program (UNICEF, 2012), thus poses the opportunity of non-formal education as a critical pillar of Somaliland’s education system where many young people have been deprived of access to basic education with some being too old and unable or unwilling to attend formal schooling.

Mobile phones have opened up a new path to improving literacy in both formal and non-formal education settings. As compared to other African regions, Somaliland stands out with relatively high mobile phone usage, high dependence on mobile money, and having a language that is understood across the region. Such conditions bode well for the use of mobile phones in enhancing literacy. Mobile phone coverage and adoption across Africa has led to a proliferation of mobile phone based development projects in a variety of sectors including agriculture, health, education, emergency response and governance. Even simple, affordable phones have proved their worth in promotion of literacy. 

This activity was funded through generous support of Al-Maktoum Foundation and it falls within UNESCOs framework of enabling universal access and preservation of information and knowledge, under the Youth Mobile Initiative which supports Ministries of Education and Youth and NGOs in launching initiatives to develop mobile applications for sustainable development and youth employment.