by President Norman C. Hill, Ghana Accra West Mission (Ensign, Oct 2015)
In sub-Saharan Africa, many people do not know how to read and write. Illiteracy is so widespread that an old African proverb says, “If you want to hide something, write it in a book.”
Limited infrastructure and limited public education in the sub-Saharan countries means limited opportunities, especially for girls. Because of the high cost of schooling and girls’ restricted status in society, to many people reading seems an unattainable skill. In Ghana, for example, although English is the official language, estimates say that less than half of the adult women speak English. In rural Ghana, two-thirds of adult women are illiterate.
“Most adult women in our towns and villages do not speak English,” says Seth Oppong, president of the Abomosu District in the Ghana Accra West Mission. “Our local language, Twi, has been a verbal language for centuries.”
Based on discussions with the branches, district leadership decided to hold literacy classes at each branch on Sundays as well as twice during the week. After a concentrated six-month effort, certificates of completion would be awarded to those who attended regularly and completed required homework.
Before the program began, literacy specialists trained instructors not only in learning methods but also in how to teach practical hygiene and family life skills. Sixty-one individuals began the program. Forty-three completed all of the sessions.
Women who completed the literacy program said they felt better about themselves. Some men also completed the program. Mostly subsistence farmers, they said they are now better able to calculate costs and sales of their produce, help children with their homework, and read the scriptures on their own and with their families.
“Being able to read and write is changing our lives and the lives of our children,” said Gladis Aseidu of the Sankubenase Branch. “Words are changing our world, and we thank our Father in Heaven.”