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Quality Education

CAN SOCIAL MEDIA HELP OVERCOME THE PROBLEMS OF ILLITERACY?

Illiteracy! Does it still linger in the world of today? I bet the major reason why you decided to read this article is how appalling you find this topic. Well, same here. Who could ever imagine that despite the increase in civilization and the rapid advancement in science and technology, illiteracy will still lurk in this modern age? If you have, then I really need to borrow or better-still purchase your magic crystal ball. Phew! Your magic crystal ball will save me from a lot of unforeseen circumstances because I would have seen them beforehand. Ha! Ha! That’s on a lighter mood. Now, back to our main discourse.
Firstly, let us peep at the statistics. Over 750 million people cannot read a sentence, one in ten people globally are unable to read and write and 123 million young persons between the ages of 15-24 years old cannot read. I’m guessing right now, you are startled. Well, revered reader, the statistics continue. In Nigeria, 65-75 million people are illiterates, women are impacted by illiteracy more than men as out of 750 million illiterates, 479 million or two-thirds are women. The stats are depressing and I’m hesitating to go further but I’ll drop this last one; which is shocking. Drum roll, please! Every year, the cost of illiteracy to the world economy is $1.19 trillion. That’s a massive ton of money being thrown into the bin because of illiteracy. Ironically, in this fast pacing world, the progress of eradicating illiteracy is slow.
An average person on the street who is unable to read and write will be called an illiterate. However, there’s more to illiteracy than the inability to read and write. Illiteracy can be categorised into cultural, moral and functional illiteracy. 
Cultural illiteracy refers to the inability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture. 
Moral illiteracy is the lack of basic religious values and it is often caused by the absence of a policy that supports its teaching. 
Lastly, functional illiteracy refers to reading and writing skills that are inadequate to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. 
Functional illiteracy seems to be the most prevalent amongst the three. A person who is ignorant in a particular area of knowledge can be said to be illiterate. For instance, a person who lacks the ability to use computers at a basic level is said to be a computer illiterate while a person who is unable to understand basic healthcare facts, causing an inability to make good health decisions is said to be health illiterate. Bear in mind that a computer illiterate might be able to read and write but cannot operate a computer. This is why the term illiteracy is a tad ambiguous.
The problems of illiteracy cannot be overemphasized. It ranges from unemployment to lower-income, to lower quality jobs, to social crimes, to economic and social doldrums. Little wonder, the United Nations have set a sustainable developmental goal that “by 2030 ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”.  
Illiteracy can be tackled via several routes which include the provision of free education in schools by the government, offering scholarships and grants to reduce financial burdens, provision of free books in schools to encourage students to develop a reading culture and creating awareness about the importance of education. But hold on a second. In the bid to proffer effective solutions to the problems of illiteracy, there has been a hot debate. It’s all about the internet wonder called Social media. Some argue that the use of social media is vital in solving the problem of illiteracy but another school of thought says otherwise. This has been a bone of contention for scholars. But pause a little and ruminate on it; can social media really overcome the problems of illiteracy? I know you want to know my take on this. Get ready and don’t move an inch as I unravel my opinion.
Let’s begin with a brief history fact, Shall we? The first recognizable social media created in 1997 was Six Degrees. In the early 2000s, sites like Myspace and LinkedIn gained popularity. YouTube was created in 2005, creating an entirely different way for people to communicate and share with each other across long distances. The renowned Facebook and Twitter became available to users in 2006. Fast forward to recent times, other sites like Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram and so on have popped up. Today, there are varieties of social media platforms in our world. Social media can be used for several purposes such as sharing information and ideas through writing, videos and voice recordings. With social media, you can get updates about your friends and family and be kept abreast of the happenings in the world. Social media also breaks the barrier of time and distance as you can interact and communicate with people anywhere in the world. It can also be used for marketing purposes; to promote a business. Social media has so far been beneficial, useful and an important tool to humans. But despite its height of importance, can it really overcome the problem of illiteracy?
The answer is encapsulated in just one word. “What is the word?”, you ask. Usage! I reiterate. Usage! Social media can help overcome the problems of illiteracy but it will depend to a great extent on the manner of usage and how we can enlighten people to use them better. Nowadays, almost everyone has at least a social media account. Instead of spending the chunk of one’s time chatting and socializing on a social media platform, one can improve his or her literacy on how to speak and write in a particular language. How? Social media like Wattpad enables users to get access to books, the literature of all genres. Once you are signed in, you can read as much as you want. You can also connect with other users on the platforms as well as writers. Through this medium, you expand your vocabulary and your knowledge about that particular language. Tips and pieces of advice on how to write better can be gotten from users and writers once you connect with them. Some people have a bad culture of reading hard copy books but love to read online. This can be put to good use as myriads of articles can be found online. People can get to improve their writing skills from this media.
A person who is ignorant in a particular field or area of knowledge can become a literate online by making good use of YouTube. YouTube gives access to numerous videos and clips. In fact, some tutors have started YouTube tutorials or training on a particular subject. For instance, the earlier mentioned computer illiterate can become computer literate by watching clips on how to use a computer. Just a few types and clicks, videos of how to use a computer will pop up and he or she can be taught virtually. Easy, so easy. Wiki which is the short form of Wikipedia contains lots of useful information from which one can benefit from. One can become acquainted with a particular subject by reading through the contents on Wikipedia and some other platforms. Voila! You become literate in such an area. But remember, it all depends on the usage. Even when you casually socialize or chat on media like Facebook, WhatsApp and so on, you can still learn new things from people. Countless times, I have learned new words, a particular topic or subject, techniques of some sort all from communicating with people on this platform.

Teachers and lecturers can also put social media to good use by creating forums or chat rooms or online classrooms for their students. Here, the learning curve continues even outside the four walls of the school. Social media apps like Google+, Edmodo, and even Facebook. Having fun while learning helps students retain information better because the process is enjoyable and memorable. Since students find social media as a means of fun, teachers can incorporate their work by using these platforms and learning is edutaining. Social media platforms like Academia.edu, LabRoots, ResearchGate provide access to journals, documents from which one can learn a lot from.

Right now, I’m sure you are asking yourself why there has been so much fuss about the sniffed dangers of social media on the literacy of people. Truthfully, social media can do more good than harm if the usage is in the proper direction. In achieving the sustainable development goal four: Quality Education, the United Nations as well as the general world populace can promote the proper and effective use of social media in solving the problem of illiteracy. Likewise, begin to put social media to better use and expand your literacy.
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