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International Literacy Day

ANCEFA STATEMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2010 International Literacy day

The 2010 International Literacy Day, falling on Wednesday, 8 September, is significant in that it is the first after the 6th International Conference on Literacy and Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) held in December 2009 in Belem, Brazil, where UNESCO member states adopted strategies for enhancing coherent action in promoting literacy for all. The chosen theme for this year’s literacy day is “The Power of Women’s Literacy”. It is a follow up to the 2009 theme which was, “The Empowering Role of Literacy”.

Literacy has the power to transform people’s lives especially that of women. Literacy has the power to improve women’s health and that of their children; it heightens women’s socio-economic well being, increases women participation in politics and cultural affairs, and helps eradicate women’s poverty. Moreover, empowering women translates to empowering a whole society.

Five years towards 2015 when the world should have provided Education for All (EFA), Africa Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), based in Dakar, Senegal, is concerned that many women in Africa are denied opportunities to acquire literacy skills vital for their socio-economic and political empowerment, as shown by data on access to literacy and financing of literacy below.

Access to Literacy

  • Many countries are far from realising adequate literacy for women and girls.
  • The 2010 UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report reveals that some 759 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 72.1 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.
  • In Sub Saharan Africa the number of illiterate adults is around 160 million, and nearly 40 million children are out of school.
  • In almost every African country the literacy rates of women are lower than those of men. For example, literacy rate in Egypt is 56.2% for women and 65.7% for males. In Uganda, it is 63% for women and 77% for men. In Zambia, it is 66% for women and 76% for men. In Tanzania, literacy rates are 62% for women and 69% for men; and in Malawi women make up more than 70% of the country’s illiterate. Similar trends are also in Senegal, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Angola, Mozambique, DRC, Sudan, Rwanda, Mauritius and other parts of Africa.
  • Gender disparities have been reduced in the region particularly in primary education, but not eliminated. Nearly 60% of the 72.1 million children out of school are girls and, almost half in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that 25 countries in Africa are at risk of not achieving the gender parity goal even in 2025.

Financing Literacy

  • At the end of CONFINTEA VI, countries pledged to ensure increased financing for adult literacy programmes and move towards achieving a minimum allocation of 3% of the education budget to literacy programmes.
  • Currently, there is a global shortfall in aid to education. UNESCO reports that at least US$11 billion is required annually to finance Universal Primary Education (UPE) alone by 2015 and a total of US$16 billion is required annually to meet the full EFA agenda by 2015.
  • However, commitment to education has not been impressive. For instance, in 2006, total aid for basic education for low-income countries was US$3.8 billion, which is less than the minimum of US$11 billion required to achieve EFA.
  • Very few countries have managed to allocate the required minimum of 20% of national budget, or 6% of the GDP to education. Most countries spend less than 15% of the national budget and less than 3% of the GDP to education. In Saharan Africa, 11 out of the 21 low income countries with data spend less than 4% of their GDP.

Recommendations

  • As pledged at CONFINTEA VI, African governments need to move away from rhetoric to coherent action, declare illiteracy a crisis, and ensure they implement action plans that deliver the promises they made in various international forums on the right to quality education for all, including women and girls.
  • The African Union should enforce implementation of the Second Decade on Education (2006-2015) especially strategies that aim at eliminating illiteracy and cultural practices that promote gender discrimination, and practices that entrench justice and equity and empower men and women to participate fully in society.
  • Civil Society Organisations have an important role to play in providing expertise where needed, and challenging governments and donors to fulfil their promise to ensure increased financing for women and youth literacy and lifelong learning.
  • There is need to renew national dialogue on literacy policies and practices by using the International Benchmarks developed by the Global Campaign for Education and Action Aid International with support from UNESCO in 2006.
  • Countries should integrate participatory approaches like REFLECT in their literacy curriculum.
  • Donors need to increase their budgetary support for literacy and press for greater accountability.
  • The World Bank, International Monitory Fund (IMF), regional banks, developed countries and donors should support national governments’ education sector plans especially those committed to investing in adult literacy and literacy for women empowerment – demonstrating alignment to national plans, respecting their sovereignty and their right to determine their own education and development priorities.
  • Governments need to fully commit to the Belem Framework of Action developed at CONFINTEA VI and ensure adequate space and consultations with Civil Society and donors in formulating and implementing creative and people-focused strategies that empower the citizens.

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