"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".
When asked to document their perspectives of literacy, the participating boys from both communities produced images of football jerseys. The alphabetic letters form the name of famous football players with their positional number below. Xavi, van Persie, Drogba and Ronaldo. These are jerseys that have been donated from outside of Ghana, but find their way to second-hand shops in towns like Tamale and Savelugu in northern Ghana. The boys know the players' names, and are able to sound out the Spanish, Dutch, Ivorian and Brazilian names.
I sent these photographs to a friend in Sydney who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign. He tweeted back, having arranged the images in a 2x3 grid. I asked him what these images tell him about the children's perspectives of literacy. He replied, "literacy is local languages through chalk and global brands on the back of shirts. The children understand what's around them, regardless of where it comes from".
"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.