Writing the Wrongs The Abuja Call for Action
In order to make the case for renewed commitment and investment there is an urgent need for govern ments to take new action on adult literacy. We call on national, state and local governments as well as civil society actors to:
- Understand the scale of the literacy challenge and ensure programmes recognise and respond to demand. Present literacy statistics are unreliable and often significantly underestimate the scale of the problem. National adult literacy surveys are needed (along the lines of the recent survey in Kenya) to build comprehensive new evidence on the number and profile of people fac ing literacy challenges. Particular attention is needed to shift understandings from a dichotomous view of literacy that is based on people crossing some magic line from illiteracy to literacy (which does not exist). We must move to an understanding of literacy as a continuum.
- Collate national dossiers on the benefits of literacy. There is considerable inter national evidence on political, social, economic, cultural and personal benefits that come from adult literacy. However, new research and new evaluations are urgently needed at a national level specifically on the multiple impacts of adult literacy, in order to convince Ministries of Finance and national policy-makers.
- Renew national dialogue on literacy policies and practices by using the International Benchmarks developed by the Global Campaign for Education and ActionAid International with support from UNESCO / the EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2006. These Benchmarks emerge from a detailed survey of 67 adult literacy programmes in 35 countries. These Benchmarks are a concise expression of accumulated international learning on developing an effective adult literacy strategy. They should be used to stimulate debate with all stakeholders but should be nationalised and contextualised in each country to reflect diverse contexts / realities.
- Ensure that all stakeholders from all relevant sectors at local and national level engage in a new national debate on the pivotal role of adult literacy for achiev ing development goals. We call for the active involvement in this new debate of Ministries of Finance, Education and other line ministries, parliamentarians, civil society actors, national education coalitions and the media.
- Include adult literacy in education sector plans, especially those submitted to the Fast Track Initiative (FTI). FTI donors will support the full Education For All sector if national governments put forward comprehensive plans. Pressures from in-country donors to reduce the focus of education plans to just primary or formal schooling must be resisted, as there is a clear inter-dependency in the EFA goals.
- Recognise adult literacy as the “invisible glue” presently missing from national plans seeking to address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or Edu cation for All (EFA) goals, as well as from Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and national development strategies – and take action to redress that. Any review of progress towards the MDGs or reviews of present PRSPs or National Development Plans should examine the impact of failing to address adult literacy.
- Act on the understanding that effective adult literacy programmes require a significant increase in funding and sustained investment from core government budgets – but that the costs of illiteracy are much higher.
In order to mobilise new momentum on adult literacy and new investments by national governments, we need to work together to influence international actors. Particularly we call for:
- UNESCO to work more closely with national governments around adult literacy. They should specifically review and improve the way in which literacy data are conceptualised, collected, compiled and reported, moving beyond conventional dichotomous definitions.
- The UNESCO Institute for Statistics to support national efforts to conduct national literacy surveys like that conducted in Kenya – to develop quality and reliable data on literacy at a reasonable cost.
- The United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) and UNESCO’s Literacy for Empowerment initiative (LIFE) to consider the use of the international Benchmarks on adult literacy for the purposes of planning and designing quality literacy programmes in the national context.
- The Fast Track Initiative to include the Benchmarks for adult literacy in their indicative framework – and to be explicit in guidelines to country-level donors that adult literacy is a legitimate and important area for inclusion in educa tion sector plans.
- All bilateral and international donor meetings (for example those in Brussels in April 2007, in Dakar in December 2007 and the White House / UNLD regional Literacy Conferences) to ensure that new resources are mobilised to support adult literacy – recognising that at least US $ 1 billion of new aid per year is required urgently for closing the resource gap if the Dakar literacy goal is to be achieved by 2015.
- The World Bank, regional banks and donors to support national governments’ education sector plans especially those who are committed to investing in adult literacy – demonstrating alignment to national plans, respecting their sovereignty and their right to determine their own education and development priorities.
- The IMF to remove conditionalities that unnecessarily constrain education budgets so that countries have the fiscal space to invest in achieving the full MDG and EFA agenda. The achievement of development goals should be placed at the centre of macro-economic planning.
- Researchers and academic institutes to initiate and support new strategic research and new evaluations on the impact of adult literacy on wider de velopment goals.
- Civil Society Organisations to play a vigilant role in facilitating synchronised action towards adult literacy goals.
- The Global Campaign for Education and all international NGOs to increase pressure on achieving adult literacy goals, making this a core part of their agenda and action, including during the Global Action Week and on Inter national Literacy Day.
- All relevant regional and international bodies to facilitate the sharing of practices on adult literacy, promoting lessons learnt and the exchange of experiences between countries.
Source: Adult Education and Development, Number 71, 2008, pp. 35 –38