Committed to building new momentum on adult literacy, 60 par ticipants from 24 countries gathered in Abuja, Nigeria in February 2007 in a workshop organised jointly by ActionAid and the Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria. They included ministers of education, permanent secretaries, directors and managers of national literacy programmes, United Nations officials, donors and civil society organi sations. The participants were all committed to "writing the wrongs" in the field of adult literacy – reversing decades of under-investment in the sector, and transforming policy and practice to develop effec tive programmes. They shared experiences of what works in adult literacy, critically analysed the 12 International Benchmarks for Adult Literacy, and identified a range of important priorities for national and international action. The process of the workshop was as important as the outcomes. It drew extensively on Reflect methodologies used in training and exchange workshops by practitioners in different parts of the world. This article outlines some of the methods that were used to actively engage the 60 participants, drawing out their knowledge and experience, analysing power relations and helping them to reach a strong consensus. Barbara Aliyu is a Technical Assistant to the MDG office in Nigeria, formerly of ActionAid.
Participants spent a day visiting adult literacy programmes in four dif ferent rural and peri-urban communities, talking with adult learners, facilitators and coordinators from government and NGO programmes. This provided a practical basis for the subsequent discussions.
In order to problematise existing literacy statistics, each participant completed a giant matrix. It included current data from the GMR for all countries present. Participants were asked to look at the statistics for their country, indicate their level of confidence in them, estimate what might be the real figures and indicate the main groups who were illiterate (e.g. women, rural, indigenous, age groups etc.). The session revealed the need to properly understand the situation in order to target programmes effectively, because to make the case for investment in literacy it is crucial to ensure people know the full scale of the challenge.
Participants broke into groups to do a series of role-plays. Half of the participants were tasked with making the case for literacy in the following contexts:
The remaining participants prepared counter-arguments for the five constituencies above, preparing possible arguments against literacy that might be used by that group.
In order to ground discussion in real experiences a series of case studies were presented of national literacy programmes, including those from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam. These were complemented by presentations about the UN Literacy Decade, the Literacy for Empowerment (LIFE) programme, the work of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, the Global Campaign for Education and Pamoja.
Participants were divided into groups, each of which created a graphic relating to one or more of the benchmarks. The groups then did a gallery walk to view, discuss and add to the various graphics. Discussion questions and answers were collected on a flipchart. All the groups explored the relevance of each benchmark to their context and looked at whether present provision met the benchmark and if not what needed to change.
Tool: Participants drew a problem tree. The roots represented read ing, writing and numeracy, the trunk was the literacy learning proc ess and the fruits were the outcomes – active citizenship, improved health, gender equality etc.
Task: Participants added fruits and labelled the branches with ex amples of practical ways in which literacy led towards the different outcomes.
Tool: A chapatti diagram was produced showing the links between the various actors in adult literacy at national and local level, including government ministries / NGOs / CSOs, etc. The importance of each actor was indicated by their size on the diagram.
Task: The first group made an image, to which the others added. Each individual also did a quick chapatti of the actual situation in his or her country and of the ideal.
Tool: A matrix was developed with the rows representing different outcomes from literacy programmes highlighted in the benchmarks (gender equality, active citizenship, improved livelihoods, improved health, HIV etc.). Each of these was then analysed in a series of col umns, identifying indicators: issues around collecting baseline data; means of verification; issues around monitoring / evaluation; actors to be involved; and ideas for strategic research.
Task: Each group built on the matrix started by the first group, review ing what others had done, taking on different outcomes and complet ing the matrix for that outcome.
Tool: A body map was developed by the first group to illustrate the ideal of a perfect facilitator. Discussion focused on how to achieve or work towards this ideal. This was then supplemented by a river to track the journey of a facilitator from recruitment through initial training and onwards: identifying key moments / obstacles / external influences.
Task: Each group developed or added to the body map and river.
Field trip by participants of the Abuja Workshop: Reflect Circle near Abuja,
Tool: An annual calendar and daily timetable was produced for a fictional community, showing the typical workloads of men / wom en/youth / old / poorest, etc. This was then supplemented with a flow diagram mapping the different steps involved in planning a literacy programme and who is involved in decisions at each stage.
Task: Each group embellished the graphics and then discussed the chal lenges in deciding when and where they would hold literacy classes.
Tool: three separate ranking exercises were developed based around the following three key questions:
Task: The first group developed an initial list and ranking and each subsequent group added criteria and did their own ranking based on personal scoring: each person had a limited number of stickers to indicate their priorities on each list.
Tool: The first group drew a map showing a remote rural area, starting with two individuals (woman and man) and showing their household and then building out to their village / the local town (including different key agencies, etc.) / the city / the capital.
Task: The participants documented the typical literate environ ment in different spheres on the map – what is there for people to read / when do people encounter literacy? Then, in a different colour they documented strategic interventions that could be taken to in crease the literate environment. What would be most effective for this woman / man? What are the power issues involved?
In country or sub-regional groups the participants:
Participants were then asked to identify how they would jointly take action on adult literacy following the workshop in terms of:
The following are a summary of the outcomes of these sessions:
The Latin American participants indicated that they would national ise the benchmarks by:
ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) participants would:
South African participants planned to:
The Nigerian participants would:
Field trip by participants of the Abuja Workshop: Participant in a Reflect circle near Abuja Source: ActionAid
Participants from Mozambique would:
Participants from East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) would:
Participants from Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Vietnam) would:
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