An old African proverb states, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” Amadou Hampaté Bâ, a Nigerian involved in PDev II stated, “Since we cannot prevent old men from dying, then we cannot stop our libraries from burning. What we can do is provide both youth and the elderly with a tool that will help them preserve and share their knowledge, so that not only old people, but also young people become living libraries.”
If a person cannot read, they cannot check the source or verify the truthfulness of information they receive. Rather, they must rely on another person’s understanding. This can leave people susceptible to the traps of extremist groups.
Even though literacy has increased in Niger in recent years, it remains one of the least literate countries in Africa. To help boost the level of literacy in Niger’s villages, PDev II along with another USAID-funded program, Niger Education and Community Strengthening (NECS), teamed up to form adult literacy programs.
For two weeks, they travelled around 26 villages located in four of the most vulnerable regions of Niger to carry out activities of their joint project, Educational Days. In each village, the communities enjoyed and learned from public readings, participatory theater and film projections. As stated by an NECS facilitator, “[T]he school enrollment rate is low in villages, at the same time dropout rate is getting higher. We want to raise awareness on the importance of enrolling and maintaining kids in schools, especially girls, to show the significance of being literate and the joy of reading.”