UIL launches study on literacy in the Sahel region

31 March 2020

In partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD), the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) is launching a study on illiteracy and literacy strategies in the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad) and some neighbouring states (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Togo). The analysis focuses in particular on young people, especially young women, who continue to constitute a particularly disadvantaged population segment in the Sahelian zone. The efforts undertaken by these countries to remedy this situation correspond to target 4.6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also fall within the framework of the African Union Agenda 2063: ‘leave no one behind’.

This study will benefit from UIL’s rich experience in the field of literacy and its extensive international work on the issue. It will include new research on the profile of the audiences concerned, especially nomadic populations, and their needs. In addition, the analysis will specifically address cross-border areas, including conflict zones.

The literacy rate of young people (15–24 years) in the Sahel region is only 56.95 per cent compared to an average of 76.58 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa and 91.67 per cent worldwide. Girls’ access to education is limited, resulting in a literacy rate for women as a whole that is significantly lower than that of men: 32.5% compared to 51% (UIS, UNESCO).

This situation is further exacerbated by a variety of factors (security, migration, demographics) that weigh heavily on the education system in these countries, and the provision of literacy and non-formal education in particular. The promotion of inclusive literacy will contribute to meeting these challenges, helping to manage community health, generate a demographic dividend through improved reproductive health and reduced birth rates, and reduce gender inequalities at the same time.

In the current Sahelian educational context, an innovative approach, integrating basic skills acquisition and vocational training, and combining traditional forms of adult education with digital pedagogy, could contribute to reducing illiteracy, fostering the economic integration of young people and the empowerment of women, promoting citizenship and consolidating the peace process. Achieving such a scenario presupposes a careful needs analysis in order to design and implement effective, multisectoral and sustainable interventions in a lifelong learning perspective.