By Ayamba Kandodo
It is Friday, 10am, a market day at M'deka Trading Centre in Blantyre Rural in Malawi (Southern Africa). The azure sky of September releases the fiery rays of sunlight, forcing reptiles to seek refuge at cool environment. But this neither deters farmers from Traditional Authority (T/A) Chigaru and others from the surrounding areas from selling their produce nor affects consumers' shopping spree.
The farmers are here to make a kill out of their sweats. After toiling for a long time in their gardens, they are now reaping benefits. But more gleeful are maize growers. They are selling the staple grain like a hot cake, making them millionaires overnight.
But their happiness cannot surpass that of Lisnet Nkolokosa, a fellow subsistence farmer, who is on day is graduating in adult literacy at the nearby Admarc Community Ground.
Nkolokosa, 76, who is from Magreta Village in T/A Chigaru graduates in adult literacy education after going through the programme for a full year.
She enrolled in 2022, together with 73 others. Today, 63 of them, including Nkolokosa are reaping the fruits of their lessons, graduating. Nkolokosa says she never expected that someday she would be among those able to read and write.
She exudes happiness: "I can't hide my ecstasy. Today, I am the happiest person in my life because this is the day, I have bade farewell with ignorance."
"I didn't know that one day, I would be a literate person. I thought I would still remain a laggard," she confesses. Nkolokosa reveals that she failed to go to school when she was young because of her family's stubborn poverty.
"I had thirsty for education, but the grinding poverty in our family denied me a chance of going to school," she admits. She only did standard one.Nkolokosa discloses that failure to know how to read and write had a serious impact on her life.
"I was failing to participate in activities that require reading and writing in my Church. I was also having difficulties to locate buses and places when traveling. "If there is someone who has suffered shame in life because of illeteracy is me," she explains.
Equally happy is Gloria Mzungu, 40, from Issa Village in the area. Like her counterpart, she failed to go to school when she was young because of vicious circle of poverty in her family.
"I did not have the opportunity to go to school because my parents could not afford to send us to school," she says. Mzungu, a mother of one daughter and a business lady, who sells second hand clothes regrets her past.
"Sometimes I would lose out in my business after gifting customers with wrong change. "Apart from this, I dreaded Banki M'khonde sessions for fear of cartooning myself," reveals Mzungu.
Like her counterpart, she says she has been facing shame from her friends when it comes time to signing documents.
"I was facing embarrassment in my places. If it was not at the bank to sign bank deposit slips, it was when receiving social cash transfer money.
"This limited my zeal to participate in community development activities. But not anymore! I am now able to read and write," boasts Mzungu.
Thanks to the two and their friends for embracing the adult education. They are now among the civilized mortals of this world, who can transform their families, communities and the country at large.
The knowledge they acquired, if put into proper use, such as embarking on businesses, farming, savings and other ventures, they can excel in life as opposed to those, who don't know how to read and write.
Unfortunately, Malawi, according to statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, about five million people out of the estimated 20 million, are illiterate.
This is the highest and worrisome number to the country, taking into account the transformative strategies or interventions, such as the Malawi 2063 it is implementing that largely depends on literate citizens.
It is against this background that the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust has been compelled to enhance adult literacy education through the provision of adult literacy books in all NICE libraries across the country and also teaching people basic knowledge about computers.
Speaking at M'deka Admarc Ground on Friday during the commemoration of this year's International Literacy Day, NICE district civic education officer responsible for Mwanza and Neno districts in the Southern Region of Malawi, Wallace Kudzala, stressed the need to advance and promote adult literacy education among Malawians, saying this is key for effective participation in personal, community and national development.
He said: “Literacy interventions can contribute to empowering women and other disadvantaged people and groups to participate in social, economic, political and cultural activities.
"Therefore, let me call upon all people to enrol for adult education to transform this country."
Kudzala said at a time when Malawi is implementing the development blue-print to transform into an inclusive wealthy and self-reliant industrialized upper-middle income country, it is important for people who do not have formal education to enrol for adult education.
"With financial support from Malawi Government, we are currently championing the Mindset Change Agenda as a key enabler of Malawi 2063.
"Now, going forward since this concept needs knowledgeable citizens, as Nice we will commit towards activities that reduce illiteracy and enhance skills development and education amongst adults in the country."
The Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Jean Sendeza said it is only literate people who can successfully contribute to the national development through various sectors such as farming and business.
She stressed: “If you did not have an opportunity to go to school while you were young and you are dreaming to prosper, the panacea to achieve your dream is to enroll for adult education and acquire knowledge and skills that can transform you,” she schooled.
Sendeza said at the time government and partners are implementing empowerment schemes, targeting vulnerable people in the communities, it is critical for those people, who do not know how to read and write acquire education to ably manage their affairs.
"In this Millennium era, it is not on to have a bigger population like five million of Malawians out the estimated 20 million who cannot read and write. We need literate people to their development agendas as well as government's plans," she tipped.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) acting deputy executive secretary David Mulera said his organization takes interest in adult education because it believes that it is only literate people who can change their communities and the world.
Mulera stated that at this time the world is transiting from the challenges of climate change such as Cyclone Freddy, Ida, Tropical Storm Ana and the poor economy, it is imperative that people should learn to read and write in order to become more resilient.
The 2023 International Literacy Day was held under the theme: Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.
DVV International Communications/Programme Officer Dyson Mthawanji said Malawi is making progress in Adult education. He said the milestones in this sector include the development of the National Adult Literacy and Education Policy; and the Adult Literacy and Education Strategic Plan.