UNESCO literacy project in Senegal inspires other African countries
UNESCO literacy project for girls and women in Senegal (PAJEF) is becoming an attraction. Its innovative teaching methods and approaches have grabbed the attention of other countries, which also struggle with high illiteracy rates. This week (30 April–2 May 2014) 14 policy-makers and education specialists from Nigeria are in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, to learn more about the PAJEF experience.
Last month, a delegation from the Gambia came on a study visit, which generated interest from a number of countries, including Pakistan and Namibia.
The PAJEF literacy project has successfully implemented literacy courses through mobile phones, computers, the internet and television, which, coupled with vocational skills training, have proven effective in reaching out to illiterate women. It is a partnership between the Senegalese government, UNESCO and the multinational private sector company Procter&Gamble.
Launched in January 2012, the project aims to improve access to education for 40,000 neo-literate and illiterate women aged 15-55 years in Senegal before it ends in June 2014. Based on the success of the project in Senegal, a similar literacy project was launched in Nigeria in March 2014.
The Nigeria project seeks to accelerate and underpin national efforts to achieve Education for All. The aim is to benefit 60,000 girls and women in the Federal Capital Territory and Rivers State within the next three years.
The Nigerian delegation will visit literacy and tutoring classes, where adolescent girls are strengthening their literacy skills through vocational training. They will also visit a virtual class where girls and women are using learning application accessible through mobile phones and computers. They will experience the digital blackboard, the so-called ‘Sankoré kit’, which has been installed in all classrooms used for the PAJEF project since the end of 2013.
The delegation will have the opportunity to get familiar with the educational radio and television structure within the Senegalese Ministry of Education. They will also learn about the popular TV programme Diek ak-Keureum, which is delivering literacy courses specifically designed for a female audience and broadcasted during daytime on national TV.
Mobile phones promote literacy
The effective use of mobile phones in promoting literacy among Senegalese women is echoed in, Reading in the mobile Era, a just-published UNESCO study. The report shows that in countries with high illiteracy rates, people read books and stories from small screen devices. This shows the potential for mobile learning even in remote and poor areas.
The challenge is daunting. The number of illiterate adults in Africa has increased by 37% since 1990, mainly due to population growth, according to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14. By 2015, it is projected that 26% of all illiterate adults will live in sub-Saharan Africa, up from 15% in 1990.
Adult literacy rates are below 50% in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. The majority of these illiterates are women, which again has a negative effect on the schooling of their children.
Education transforms lives
Educated girls and young women are more likely to know their rights and to have the confidence to claim them. In the words of UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokova: “Girls education is a development multiplier and one of the most powerful transformational forces we have to build peace and social inclusion.”
In 2011, UNESCO launched “Better Life, Better Future”, a global partnership for girls’ and women’s education, which addresses two main areas requiring more attention – secondary education and adult literacy. It introduces programmes aimed at stemming the drop-out of adolescent girls in the transition from primary to secondary education and in lower secondary schools, as well as focuses on scaling up women’s literacy programmes through stronger advocacy and partnerships.