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Mobile Learning Projects to Empower Rural Women in Pakistan

16.01.2013

A UNESCO distance post-literacy project in Pakistan based on mobile technology is getting results; up till 1500 women were already made literate. The Mobile Based Post Literacy programme tries to address the literacy retention issues among young rural women, aged between 15 and 25, by keeping them interested in literacy through the mobile phone. In Pakistan, more than 100 million people have access to a mobile phone. They have become a significant means of communication among the youth population.

Recently, 50 additional literacy centres were established in Pakistan and an extra 2,500 women were expected to finish the Mobile Based Post Literacy programme by end of November 2012, after receiving test messages for 2-5 months. The programme consists of two parts. In the first part, the women receive daily text messages in Urdu and are expected to respond to them. The messages contain interesting topics which participants can relate to such as health and religious values. In the second part of the programme, a monthly evaluation is given to assess the knowledge and literacy levels gained by participants. Interactive exercises and additional resources are also provided.

UNESCO implemented the “Mobile Based Post Literacy Pilot Project” in 2009 in partnership with Mobilink Pakistan and BUNYAD Foundation, Lahore (a leading NGO in the field of Literacy and NFBE). Due to the success of the previous phase, additional partners joined the project, such as Dhaka Ahsania Mission Pakistan and the Punjab Department of Literacy and NFBE, Lahore. As a result, UNESCO, in collaboration with all the partners, initiated a third phase in March 2012. In this phase, other forms of ICTs are being used in the classrooms during the teaching cycle. UNESCO is providing its interactive DVD, “Becoming Literate” and Nokia Pakistan developed the Application “e-Taleem” based on the contents of this interactive DVD, which can be accessed through Nokia’s mobile phones. This App is also available on the internet at UNESCO Islamabad’s website.

UNESCO is also implementing a six-month project, starting in December 2012, for capacity-building of 30 Rural Female Teachers on Literacy & NFBE methodologies using Mobile Technologies in collaboration with Punjab Department of Literacy and NFBE, Lahore. During this project over 750 mobile messages on various topics, such as health and hygiene, language, religious values, numeracy and teacher training will be sent to the teachers. After six-months, the project will be evaluated by a third party.

Illiteracy represents an enormous challenge for assuring a high standard of living. An estimated 122 million youth globally are illiterate, of which young women represent 60.7%. In Pakistan, a country with one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia, there is a particularly large gender gap. The literacy rate for males over 15 years is 67% while for females it is 42%. One of the reasons for this low literacy rate is a limited access to reading materials. New literates should have constant access to reading materials for at least three months after learning to read. Furthermore, it is difficult to keep new literates motivated to stay literate. Mobile phones can bring a solution to this problem.