Education/News/July 2022/Wikimedia for Illiterate Persons

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Wikimedia for Illiterate Persons

Summary: An experiment by a Wikimedian in University of Nigeria is about bringing persons who are not literate in both a lingua franca and their mother tongues along the broad knowledge highway being determinedly constructed by Wikimedia projects. It’s about absolutely leaving no one behind.

This announcement is a personal effort of a Wikimedian passionate about helping illiterate persons in Nigeria who have little education benefit largely from the interestingly increasing body of open educational resources (OER). Valuable online OER, such as Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, and Wikibooks, that have high potential to get this class of Nigerians educated, improve their well-being and participate in knowledge generation and sharing are increasingly in non-Nigerian languages, especially English, which these people do not speak, write and read. Worse still, a majority of them are illiterate not only in English but also in their mother tongues and do not have access to the Internet. They cannot also make sense of all the noble work done in Wikipedia and its sister projects in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and any other Nigerian tongue.

Dr. CPU Njoku’s idea then came to adapt/translate or transform Wikimedia’s OER into comprehensible small chunks of audio and text in Nigerian languages, based on identified learning and living needs of illiterate Nigerians who are supposed to be an essential part of the digital and sustainable development worlds. The text version, to be illustrated with context-relevant images, is to benefit and encourage those who are mother tongue literate but still have no access to the Internet. Audio will be delivered through offline digital storage for self-paced learning.

Dr. Njoku, in this direction, convened 12 student volunteers in the computer lab of his workplace—the Computer Communications Center of the University of Nigeria—in March 2022 to first work with the target group in Igbo-speaking southeast Nigeria. Describing and explaining his idea further and getting their interest deeper, he trained the students for searching English and Igbo Wikipedias and Wiktionaries, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikibooks for relevant entries, creating/translating chunks of learning texts in Igbo from entries, and voicing the texts. Although the strike by university workers in Nigeria dispersed the team (who had continued working via WhatsApp) the students did needs assessment in 4 communities and worked together f2f up to the second week in April 2022 when students who remained in hostels were ordered out. The depth of the student's enthusiasm in the initiative is illustrated by one of them whose parents ordered homeward early in April when the strike did not end. She went home but later convinced her parents of why she stayed back on campus. She wrote through a WhatsApp chat: “I was amazed at the way they accepted my involvement in the initiative after explaining to them about it…If [Is] it possible for me to still get back?” Before she could return, the hostels had been locked. We have as at today created several resources for the target group.

A looming challenge is an absence of incentivization to mobilize volunteers from their dispersed locations to the site, as the workers’ strike continues. The students and more volunteers need to take the resources physically to target beneficiaries and help them benefit reasonably from the content through periodic discussion meetings.