Your old reading glasses could help Rwandan adult learners

Your old reading glasses could help Rwandan adult learners

People from Aberdeen are being asked to donate old and unused reading glasses to allow adults in Rwanda to access life-changing learning opportunities.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen are engaged in a five-year project to explore whether Scotland’s approach to adult education can be helpful in the Central East African country.

However, on a recent meeting with local tutors in Rwanda, the academics were told one of the most immediate barriers to learning was a chronic lack of reading glasses.

The team appealed to University staff to donate spectacles to the cause and are now looking to extend the call to people across the city and shire.

“We’ve actually found many similarities between the issues facing adult learners in Scotland and Rwanda,” explains Dr Aileen Ackland one of the project co-ordinators. “But one of the starkest differences is the simple fact that many people in Rwanda just don’t have reading glasses or the means to access them.

“In Scotland these are items we can pick up for a few pounds in the supermarket and as someone who has more than a few pairs gathering dust in drawers around my house, I decided to appeal to the wider university community to see if we could build up a stockpile to take back out with us to Rwanda.”

In Scotland an approach to adult literacies called Social Practices was adopted more than a decade ago. This approach is wider than traditional reading and writing but takes into account numeracy and the use of new information and communication technologies. The flexible approach also considers the way individuals will use literacies in their daily lives.

The Social Practices approach has attracted worldwide interest and a five year collaborative project between the University of Aberdeen, the University of Rwanda College of Education, the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research - Rwanda, three Teacher Training Colleges in the Western Province and funded by the Scottish Government aims to see if a similar approach can be used in Rwanda.

Dr Ackland adds: “Adult Literacies is a policy priority in Rwanda as they look to build a peaceful and equitable society in a country still developing after the 1994 genocide.

“Just like Scotland, there is a commitment in Rwanda to a programme of adult learning however progress is slow, with many learners dropping out or unable to transfer the skills to their lives outside of lessons. A lot of this is put down to a traditional teacher-centred approach to learning which mimics the primary school curriculum and environment and doesn’t take account of learners’ motivation to learn. There was also no programme in place to train adult tutors.

“Through this collaborative project, we hope to see if lessons learnt from Scotland’s approach to adult learning can be transferred and adapted to Rwanda. This will be a complex and intensive project, but the acquisition of glasses would seem to be an early easy win and I hope the people of Aberdeen can lend a hand.”

Anyone who has spare pairs of reading glasses to donate (note – the appeal is for generic reading glasses, not prescription glasses) is asked to send them to Dr Aileen Ackland, School of Education, MacRobert Building, or leave them at the reception of MacRobert Building.

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