Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Literacy and human development…Will they listen to RAN?

From October 6 to 11, 2008, the Reading Association of Nigeria (RAN) will hold its 11th biennial conference in Uyo, Capital of Akwa Ibom State, South South Nigeria. Conferees will discuss the intersection between literacy and human development. Keynote speakers are Professor Steve Layne from Chicago, Professor Thelma Oboh from Minnesota and Prof Ralph Omojuwa from Nigeria. Conferees will discuss how literacy can contribute to alleviating human development problems in Nigeria. They are expected to make suggestions to government and NGOS on what to do to increase literacy rate from the abysmal 67% (adult literacy) (See IRA, 2007).
Ms Edidiong Umana, a graduate student of mine, and I will co-present a paper on “The Nigerian newspapers as sources of education on SCD: what is there to read?” We believe the media have done a lot of informing and educating on HIV/AIDS, cancer etc . We are not certain if they have done enough about sickle cell disease (SCD) education. Yet 100 million people worldwide and about 40 million Nigerians carry the sickle cell trait (Ohaeri & Sokunbi, 2001). If the SCD problem is that severe, the Nigerian media should prime it based on the demands of social responsibility and the news selection criteria of magnitude and prominence. We plan to do a content analysis of the health pages of two leading Nigerian papers to see what about SCD is on them. Many SCD carriers are young; they need education in order to make marital choices and so break the chain of pain, woes and misery. Poor or scant media content as well as illiteracy will deny them this much-needed education. These are therefore anti-human development. Ms Umana will make the presentation on our behalf.
It is commendable that RAN has chosen to focus on human development and how literacy can influence it. The literacy rate in Nigeria is low and human development is poor. From this conference will come suggestions on how to tackle the problems. By these, maybe RAN will save some from ignorance, poverty and disease that illiteracy promotes.
But will concerned government agencies take RAN seriously? Does the Nigerian government think the academia have anything to offer? Recently a government official said Nigerian academics had failed Nigerian. I thought the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would take him up. But it did not. Maybe ASUU felt the right response was silence. Ms Umana and I envisaged that as usual, government and its agencies would not listen to the RAN conferees. Therefore, we might back up our presentation with media advocacy and SCD activism after the conference.
Ohaeri, J. U. and Shokunbi, W. A. (2001) “Attitudes and Beliefs of Relatives of patients with
Sickle cell disease” The East African Medical Journal. Vol. 78, No 4 pp180- 186
IRA: International Reading Association (2007) Nigeria: 67% adult literacy not acceptable. http://blog.reading.org/archives/002474.html


Loomnie said...

It sounds interesting. I wrote a short, unublished paper on some ethical issues in the application of pre-natal diagnosis for detecting haemoglobin SS sometime last year.... I doubt, though, that SCA patients who are able - and can afford - to buy/read a newspaper would not already be aware of these issues.

By the way, Prof Olu Akinyanju and co are doing a good job through the sickle cell foundation. http://www.sicklecellfoundation.com

Edidiong said...

This is quite interesting, SCD is a condition that needs to be reduced to the barest minimum and this can be achieved by sensitising the public. But there is been so much silence surrounding it as if its causing no harm. The media have done enough on HIV/AIDS so i think if same is applied to SCD, most people will take the necessary precaution and the pains associated with it will be a thing of the past.

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