Literacy and non-formal education

Literacy class at Lac Rose (Dakar) using interactive whiteboard, sankoré © UNESCO/Saïp Sy

Learning to read and write is a fundamental right. Yet, 38 % of African adults (some 153 millions) are illiterate; two-thirds of these are women.

Africa is the only continent where more than half of parents are not able to help their children with homework due to illiteracy.

Apart from Cabo Verde, UNESCO Dakar covers countries that are among the twenty lowest ranking countries in the Human Development Index. Literacy rates are hence below 50% in Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

The situation is alarming as literacy is a crucial step to acquire the basic skills needed to cope with the many challenges children, youth and adults will face throughout their lives.

For many disadvantaged young people and adults, non-formal education is one of the main routes to learning. Non-formal education reaches people in their own context and ideally in their own local language.

UNESCO's role

UNESCO’s Regional Office in Dakar works on several fronts:

  • Build capacities among key resources persons (national officials and experts). The aim is to make literacy and non-formal education part of sectoral policies as well as monitor and evaluate efforts at national level.
  • Advocate for more resources to literacy and non-formal education and the use of national languages. Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal) have, for example, significantly increased their budget allocation to literacy.
  • Create and adopt innovative approaches. Building on lessons learned and our rich experience UNESCO works with governments, civil society, development partners and the private sector to explore new avenues for reaching out, in particular through the use of ICTs.

UNESCO Dakar’s programmes and projects:

Back to top