» Literacy prize recognizes hard won achievements of women in Senegal
01.09.2016 - Education Sector

Literacy prize recognizes hard won achievements of women in Senegal


For one 60-year-old Senegalese woman, learning to read and write gave her independence and a direct link to her son in Europe.

“She came to the programme unable to read and write,” said Souleymane Ly, Director of Communications for the Directorate of Literacy and National Languages which has been awarded the 2016 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy for its ‘National Education Programme for Illiterate Youth and Adults through ICTs.’

“When her son would send her text messages she had to ask someone else what was written. She lost her independence and the intimacy of contact with her son. Now she can send her own messages she feels free. She even likes to show her grandchildren how she can do basic mathematics.”

Information and Communication Technologies as an accelerator for literacy

Of Senegal’s 14 million inhabitants only 55.6 per cent of those aged 15 years and older are literate of which 43.8 per cent are women, making it one of the ten countries in Africa where more than half of adults are illiterate (2015).

It was in this context that the Directorate of Literacy and National Languages (DALN) was established to implement the Government of Senegal’s policy on literacy, basic education and the promotion of national languages.

The National Education Programme for Illiterate Youth and Adults through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) was launched in 2013 in 14 regions of Senegal with the aim of providing around 14,000 young people and illiterate adults (15 and over) with life-skills in the national language and/or in the official language to promote their integration into working life.

One innovative feature of the programme is the signing of contracts with local collectives.

The DALN programme aims to facilitate the use of ICT to enhance the professional activities environment of illiterate young and adults.  The programme aims to empower local communities to develop and implement basic education programmes for youth and adults. In addition, it contributes to issues related to Ebola, AIDS, malaria and other diseases. It also helps to fight against poverty and environmental degradation and contributes to the empowerment of women.

In 2015 there were 13,800 beneficiaries of which 12,800 were women and girls.

Mr Ly said: “I feel great joy and pride not just for the programme but for all our learners most of whom are women. They have to make such huge sacrifices to leave their homes and families and come to attend classes to better themselves and be able to find better work, to do simple things like use a mobile phone. They are searching for autonomy and we are helping them to achieve it.”

Following the success of the programme in Senegal, it is now being replicated in Togo, Gambia, Niger and Nigeria. With a focus on the elimination of illiteracy by 2025, the programme is now planning to create libraries in regional centres and has recently established a fully-equipped centre of documentation and information.

“The prize will mean we can now press ahead for more resources and we will be starting an awareness campaign to attract more funding. Then we want to share our ideas and best practices with even more countries,” said Mr Ly.  


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