Workshop to evaluate the progress of LIFE in Africa
The Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE/2006-2015) is a major UNESCO activity designed to accelerate literacy in the 35 countries in which literacy poses a critical challenge. It contributes to the Education for All (EFA) goals, the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) objectives and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Through LIFE, UNESCO provides support to 18 African countries.
The workshop held from 3-5 March 2010 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso was organised by BREDA in cooperation with UIL. It analysed and discussed the outcomes of a 2009 evaluation of LIFE implementation in 15 African LIFE countries, which had been conducted with support from UNESCO field offices in order to better plan the actions to be taken during the coming biennium (2010-2011). Around 90 participants attended, including LIFE focal points, Directors of Literacy from 17 LIFE countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco, regional and UN organisations, key NGOs and private sector representatives. The event served to identify innovative experiences and share both the good practices and difficulties encountered during the implementation of LIFE.
The workshop revealed that LIFE has significantly contributed to strengthening national capacities for the formulation of gender-sensitive literacy policies and programmes. Some countries have developed effective advocacy and communication strategies, including initiatives spearheaded by First Ladies that mobilise political and financial support for literacy, and new ministries for literacy and non-formal education that increase the visibility of literacy in national development priorities. A further positive development has been the promotion of innovative practices such as the use of information and communication technologies (radio, mobile phones, Internet, etc.) to expand access to literacy programmes for illiterate people, particularly women and rural populations. South-South cooperation has also proven an effective means of promoting the exchange of experiences and good practices, and of establishing networks for literacy and non-formal education (NFE).
The workshop identified key challenges and recommendations to be addressed at the regional level. These comprised:
- the development of an evidence-based advocacy strategy and adequate resource allocation to support political commitment to literacy and NFE;
- an enhanced understanding of LIFE as a framework of collaborative action designed by UNESCO to assist countries in achieving EFA goals (in particular goals 3, 4 and 5);
- improved coordination of LIFE-related activities at the national and regional levels: the coordination of LIFE should be carried out by the national institutions in charge of literacy
- and non-formal education with the support of the national authorities, more specifically the Minister in charge of literacy and NFE;
- the development of more effective capacity-building strategies at the sub-regional and regional levels by promoting greater cooperation between the UNESCO units involved in LIFE and Capacity-building for EFA (CapEFA) projects; and
- the use of ICTs to enhance access to literacy and NFE programmes, and to improve the quality of literacy provision.