Mexican programme supporting adult education wins UNESCO Literacy Prize

Building & Growing’ of Construyendo y Creciendo, Mexico is awarded the 2021 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy. This non-profit organization was founded in 2006 and provides people a second chance to obtain a quality, officially-recognized, and comprehensive education to people with low or no literacy skills, in particular construction workers and their communities.

The organization’s mission is to promote literacy, including functional literacy, and support adult education. The ‘Building & Growing’ programme focuses on providing digital and inclusive literacy education through construction site, mobile, and distance classrooms, bringing the learning environment to learners.

Between 2017 and 2020, 6 557 learners completed the programme, 45 percent of whom were women. Through customised learning and cooperation between students and teachers, learners acquired a functional level of digital literacy, as well as learning or improving a trade related to the construction industry.

The programme responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by embracing inclusive distance and technology-enabled literacy learning. While it brought advantages such as twenty-four-hour educational services and learners not having to dislocate to go to classes, it also highlighted the digital gap including students’ low or no access to the Internet, lack of digital skills and limited knowledge of self-learning.

“One of the solutions adopted was to provide some technological tools such as electronic tablets with internet data so that learners could use them in their homes,” says Ms Roxana Piña, President of Construyendo y Creciendo. “However, it was not that simple since many learners live in remote areas with limited access to Internet connectivity”.

For people who had low access to the Internet and illiterate adults, Construyendo y Creciendo opted to distribute educational materials in physical form and maintain communication with them via telephone or through a family member.

Despite face-to-face activities being suspended during the COVID-19 crisis, the programme was able to continue its activities, giving learners who previously did not have access to education (due to lack of accessible learning facilities near their homes or who were unaware of distance learning), an opportunity to participate in distance learning and thrive.

In the heights of this year’s International Literacy Day, Ms Piña shares a message encouraging the continuity of learning. “Education is a right for all, therefore everyone wishing to continue learning should look for ways to do so. Many times people don’t go after acquiring knowledge because they are unaware of their options. We should never give up our desire to continue to grow, even when our decisions are criticized, because it is never too late to do so”.

This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to six outstanding literacy programmes from Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Mexico and South Africa on the occasion of International Literacy Day. UNESCO will host a two-day online International Conference on 8 and 9 September. A special session with the Laureates of this year’s Prizes 2021 will be held on 9 September highlighting ‘inclusive distance and digital learning’.

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