"All 3 pictures show an up-close, even intimate, view of a human being writing. To me this says that literacy is not a skill, but an act - a person doing something to the world. Literacy is about making your mark".
"What do these photos tell you about children's perspectives of literacy?", I asked a recipient of crowdfunding rewards I recently sent. He has them displayed on his fridge in Canberra.
"Belief in knowledge. Literacy as a way of improving quality of life in its most fundamental way. The enjoyment of a book, the ability to share experiences in written forms. The man reading the book looks engrossed in it. The person practicing writing (latin characters) amidst a dust or concrete floor is animated, in motion. Conveys that writing is a part of life and an important one".
I ran a crowdfunding campaign early this year to support the exhibition of 28 photographs taken by out of school children in northern Ghana. These photographs are part of my doctoral research data, one aspect of which is exploring how literacy can travel via photographs.
In 2012, UNICEF Australia published the photographs of five out of school children I worked with in northern Ghana. I piloted a participatory M&E method that involved asking children to document their everyday lives with digital cameras. In 2016, I'm at the final stage of my PhD that was inspired by these children and their unique perspectives on everyday life, schooling and literacy. Facebook reminded me of this "memory" from four years ago. I had almost forgotten about some of these photographs, but not the memory that launched my PhD research topic for which I just finished my Completion Seminar; the penultimate event before submitting.
Research note: old rifles were fired into the air emitting the loud bang of a car backfiring. Drumming and singing could be heard amidst the puncturing bangs. A funeral was being held for a community member. We were seated under a tree away from the memorial, interviewing one of the participants. A young 10-year old, who has never attended formal schooling. He bore my questioning with patience and reflection. Storm clouds were gathering in the background, the wind picking up speed. Average temperatures around this part of northern Ghana have been 40 degrees Celsius, but today was bearable. We managed to move inside of a teacher’s house before the rain lashed the village. The chickens and a goat joined us in the gloom. The interviews continued as three parents spoke about their children, schooling, culture and literacy.
Coffee. Check. Tea. Check. Cameras x12. Check. These are the primary materials I took with me for two months of field research in northern Ghana. The smaller digital cameras were crowdsourced via Facebook from five different people.