Literacy for a Human-Centred Recovery: Narrowing the Digital Divide

“The 8th of September was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1966 to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.”

To learn more about International Literacy Day click here.

We live in a fast pace, tech-savvy era and there are many individuals who still struggle to read and write, which makes navigating the modern-day world extremely difficult. There are organizations around the globe trying to improve literacy rates in their local communities in both children and adults. In Trinidad & Tobago, one of those organizations is the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA), who work to bridge the gap for such individuals, not only to improve their ability to read and write but also their quality of life.

A word from ALTA

Since 1992, the Adult Literacy Tutors Association has worked to build the nation’s human resource capacity by improving the literacy rate in Trinidad and Tobago. ALTA’s National Literacy Survey of 1994 concluded that approximately a quarter of the population is unable to cope with everyday reading and writing tasks.

Our increasing reliance on technology has amplified the need for adequate literacy skills as we interact with screens for both work and leisure. The pandemic and its requirement of physical distancing have also highlighted the need to navigate the virtual environment.

As the world restructures to accommodate these changing modes of interaction it is apparent that the written word will remain a key factor. Equally apparent is that the gaps between those who have the skills to adjust and those who don’t will continue to widen without targeted intervention.

With our two newest initiatives ALTA-V and ALTA Online, ALTA has seized the opportunity to continue to improve literacy using Caribbean-centred life skills content while embracing digital modes of delivery.

“Literacy for a Human-centred Recovery

ALTA-V brings literacy directly to you, as it was developed when educational institutions were forced to abruptly transition from in-person classes at the start of the pandemic. Students join us for free via the Zoom platform to improve their literacy skills. ALTA-V is delivered by trained volunteer ALTA tutors to small groups of 6-8 students.

ALTA-V has allowed us to reach a new group of students – adults who have a smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access and who may not have been able to attend in-person classes. From the response of both new and continuing students, it is here to stay!

ALTA Online is our web-based programme of literacy instruction designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low-level reading and spelling skills.

Persons must have access to a computer or laptop and internet or wifi to use the programme. ALTA Online uses video, audio and pictures to teach followed by interactive activities and games to practise what was taught. It is important to note that there are no tutors on the ALTA Online programme. Also, ALTA Online is available 24/7. You can log in anytime to do some minutes or some hours of literacy learning.

There is a cost attached to ALTA Online as a learning platform because the programme replaces the paid instruction offered at workplaces and through sponsored projects. So, ALTA Online costs $600 a book. When a student does three books, they complete a literacy level.

The immediate needs posed by the pandemic have intensified for many of our learners who were already facing the harsh impacts of poverty and underemployment. ALTA’s response has been grounded in ensuring that we continue to empower our students through literacy bearing in mind the demands of this changing digital environment.

ALTA’s efforts to bridge the digital divide are not lost on our students, who have remarked that they are now not only gaining literacy skills but also competence in using their devices as they progress through their sessions. They are finding that adaptation is indeed possible with the right support systems in place.

Registration for both ALTA-V and ALTA Online are currently underway. ALTA can be reached at 708-1990 and 341-8668 and via email at [email protected].



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