General Report

A major regional conference on literacy was held in Bamako, Mali, from 10 to 12 September 2007. For the information of our readers, we reprint the General Report here.

African Regional Conference in Support of Literacy – Renewing Literacy to Face African and Intellectual Challenges

Visions and Good Practices Resulting from the Conference

(Mrs. Koumba Boly Barry: Coordinator of ADEA Non-Formal Education Working Group; Group of Rapporteurs: Anthony Okech, Yao Ydo, Clinton Robinson, Ulrike Hanemann)

Context of the Conference

  • The framework of EFA and UNLD
  • The White House Conference on Global Literacy
  • The six regional conferences to promote LIFE (Literacy Initiative for Empowerment) and the UNLD
  • LIFE: a UNESCO initiative aiming to promote literacy in the perspective of sustainable human development
  • The framework of lifelong learning

Objectives of the Conference

Advocacy for:

  • The promotion of literacy as a tool for social improvement and the fight against poverty
  • The setting up of a coalition of partners (governments, civil society, development partners, etc.) in support of effective national and regional programmes within the framework of global initiatives (MDGs, LIFE, UNLD, etc.)
  • Creating a new impetus for UNLD and LIFE in Africa

Participants and Methodology


  • The President of Mali, the Director-General of UNESCO (at the opening ceremony)
  • First Ladies
  • Ministers responsible for EFA and literacy, Finance Ministers of LIFE countries, representatives of development partners; NGOs and CSOs, literacy professionals, private providers, the media, publishers

Methodology of the Conference

Combination of:

  • Plenary sessions and panels
  • Caucuses and parallel sessions
  • Fair of experiences

The Four Thematic Round Tables

  1. Policies and Strategies for the Integration of Literacy into the Education Sector
  2. Renewing Costing and Financing Literacy in the 21st Century
  3. Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation and Benchmarking
  4. Innovative Programmes – Content and Delivery: Creating Literate Environments

Panels: Renewing Literacy – Effective Practices in Africa

  1. Family Literacy and Intergenerational Learning
  2. Literacy, Health Promotion and HIV Prevention
  3. Literacy for Empowerment and Economic Self-Sufficiency
  4. Literacy and ICTs

Water Washes, but it is Knowledge that Liberates…

  • Literacy is a powerful tool for the empowerment of those excluded from the formal system and development
  • It helps to promote a culture of peace, human dignity, freedom, democracy, and the promotion of sub-regional integration
  • It goes beyond the mere mastery of reading, writing and numeracy and encompasses life skills for an active and productive participation in social life and in public and political governance

Major Challenges

  • The time factor: at the current rate of progress, international commitments cannot be attained (e.g. two key goals of the Dakar Framework for Action: Goal 3 – ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes; and Goal 4 – achieving a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults)
  • Lack of political will guaranteeing the effective exercise of the right to adult education
  • Low budgets
  • Absence of reliable methods for determining the number of illiterates and costs in the countries concerned
  • The fact that systems for the mobilization and transparent and efficient management of resources are not always in place
  • Absence of strategies for the mobilization of new sources of support to supplement national efforts
  • Non-observance of international commitments in the field of development aid (0.7 per cent of GNP to be allocated to development aid)
  • Low level of commitment by partners to literacy and NFE
  • Need for professionalization of NFE

Lessons Learnt

  • The assessment of EFA (Dakar +7) reveals a noticeable improvement in the rates of access to primary education, whereas literacy rates have not experienced the same increase in recent years
  • If the current rate of progress is maintained, no country of Sub-Saharan Africa can improve its literacy rate by 50 per cent
  • NFE should be part of a holistic policy within the framework of a sectoral approach
  • Countries should translate into action the AU recommendations relating to the introduction of national languages into the formal education system
  • There is a general consensus on the need to promote literacy and a tacit commitment on the part of participants to work to that end
  • There is a lack of precise information on the costs involved in highquality literacy programmes
  • There is a need for complementarity between formal and nonformal modalities to create synergies and promote innovative approaches such as family literacy and inter-generational learning

Key Messages

  1. There are persuasive arguments and proofs that justify investment in literacy within the framework of a holistic, integrated and diversified vision (involving the development of inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral approaches)
  2. The president of Mali is committed to increase the share allocated to NFE in the budget of his country and to argue the case for NFE among his peers
  3. Programmes should be costed with the help of accurate methods for the collection and analysis of data, using existing simulation models, and on the basis of carefully examined and stabilized unit costs
  4. There should be a substantial increase in the share allocated to literacy in education budgets
  5. There is a need to develop innovative strategies for the mobilization of additional resources from new sources, and to design strategies for the reduction of costs borne by the countries concerned
  6. Preference should be given to innovative approaches and practices that emphasize gender equity, address the issue of HIV/AIDS and exploit the potential offered by the new technologies
  7. There is a need for up-to-date and reliable data as a basis for programming and the formulation of relevant policies that take into account accepted international standards
  8. The struggle for a literate society involves inter alia an improvement in the quality of primary education
  9. The sustainability of acquired literacy should be ensured through the creation of a rich literate environment, especially in the rural areas, with further possibilities for learning and for acquiring life skills and skills for employment and self-employment


To African Governments

  • To translate into concrete action the political will to support literacy and non-formal education in general
  • To promote literacy as a fundamental right for all social groups, particularly the most marginalized
  • To prepare sectoral policies which include literacy as a tool for combating poverty and as an instrument for development
  • To increase the budget devoted to non-formal education to at least 3 per cent of the education budget
  • To determine with precision the costs of literacy programmes, using new techniques for calculation developed by UNESCO and the World Bank
  • To implement language policies based on the promotion of multilingualism and the introduction of African languages into the education systems
  • Within the framework of the professionalization of literacy teaching, to review the status of literacy workers, their mode of recruitment, career plan and remuneration, and to offer them opportunities for improving their skills and acquiring further officially recognized competencies

To UNESCO and its Partners

  • To organize a gathering of the Ministers of Education in order to exchange their experiences and practices in literacy and non-formal education
  • To support governments and other actors in the application of innovative methods for the evaluation of skills, such as those tested in Kenya

To Service Providers / Actors

To work for the professionalization of the sub-sector with a view to improving the quality of the services that it provides

To Partners

  • To undertake advocacy for greater mobilization and increased support from development partners and the private sector
  • To increase the share given to literacy and NFE in education budgets
  • To integrate literacy into sectoral plans and major international initiatives such as the EFA Fast Track Initiative (FTI)

The Bamako Appeal

The African continent, African women and men have an obligation, a duty to commit themselves to making non-formal education a reality as a fundamental human right exercised by all and for all.

How can this commitment be carried out?

Through the political will of:

  • Heads of state and governmental leaders
  • First Ladies
  • Officials of decentralized authorities
  • The community
  • Civil society
  • Researchers
  • The private sector

within a multi-partnership perspective in which the roles and responsibilities are clearly determined and the necessary conditions for exercising them are well established.

Participants at this Conference have a duty to posterity. History will judge and future generations will assess the result. The call by the great writer Joseph Ki Zebo – taken up again by Mr. Mamadou Ndoye, ADEA Executive Secretary – to “educate or perish” constitutes a warning that should be heeded. This Assembly has certainly chosen a better destiny for Africa: a system of quality education and training for all throughout life. This has to begin with good-quality literacy teaching. In this regard each one of us makes a commitment to:

  • the development of an integrated, holistic and diversified educational vision
  • the mobilization of internal resources commensurate with the am-bitions that we have for the well-being of the African populations
  • the establishment of efficient, effective and transparent management of internal and external resources
  • the creation of partnerships for the exchange of innovative experiences and the pooling of innovative practices
  • a massive investment in literacy and training for young people and adults
  • validation and regulation of the status, work conditions and salaries of adult trainers and educators; and
  • the valuing of national languages in education and all the other life spheres


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