Monday, May 25, 2009

Accord on literacy thru cell phones

KARACHI: Mobilink, Pakistan's major cellular service and part of Orascom Telecom Holding, signed a partnership agreement with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for provision of literacy to adolescent girls using cell phones.

Commenting on the partnership, Bilal Munir Sheikh, Vice President Marketing, Mobilink said, "as market leader, Mobilink actively supports initiatives that combine the benefits of technology to reach out to the community. This is the first of its kind initiative in the world and with Unesco's expertise in the field of education, we hope to create a model that the world can follow and learn from."

Elaborating on the project, Maurice Robson, Director Unesco stated, "this literacy programme will use mobile phones as a common and popular means of communication among the youth, to develop a mobile-based, distance post-literacy programme where the new literates receive post-literacy materials as messages on mobile.

Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia. There is a large gender gap. The literacy rate for males over 15 years is 63 per cent while that for females it is 36 per cent.

The reasons for the prevailing situation in Pakistan are complex. In order to maintain the literacy skills after basic literacy courses, the new literates should have constant access to reading materials, at least for three months afterwards. But for most of the new literates, reading material is scarce and the occasions to use the acquired literacy skills are rare. The programme has two phases. In the first phase, adolescent girls will receive interesting and informative text messages daily in Urdu and are expected to respond.

The method is believed to be far more effective than conventional print based post-literacy programmes in maintaining interest and in keeping literacy skills alive. The second phase of the programme includes monthly evaluation to assess the gain of knowledge, interactive exercises, a glossary of educational terms and additional resources.

The first phase of this programme will cover 250 learners in Punjab in the next 4 months and will be expanded in other areas on effective outcomes. Mobilink also supports The Citizen's Foundation education programme, Zindagi Trust, Roshni Homes Trust and Lums. -APP

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