Limbani Nsapato comments on the article “The keys to a peaceful and prosperous Africa”
Limbani Eliya Nsapato, Country Representative, Edukans Foundation, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Samuel Asnake Wollie’s treatise on “The keys to a peaceful and prosperous Africa” is sobering in pointing out the need to invest in youth and adult literacy programs and particularly the need to move away from focusing on brick and mortar facilities to problem solving, and more importantly to prosperity and sustainable development.
Attempts are being made in some African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to bring more life into literacy programs beyond basic literacy to introduction of entrepreneurial skills and soft skills. These countries have for instance adopted REFLECT methodology (thou to a small scale) and have encouraged learners to focus on literacy for livelihoods which make literacy programs more lively and relevant. I have seen that programs which encourage agribusiness, and other skills are more attractive to learners especially males ones than those that address functional literacy or basic literacy. In this regard literacy is defined and seen as a continuum and life long experience rather than an event or short term process of acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills. Literacy programs should be seen as relevant by learners to tackle dropout, and should be presented in attractive languages (especially mother tongue) for greater affinity and enculturation.
A narrow conceptualization of literacy cannot solve Africa’s problems and bring about prosperity. This has important implication on the curriculum as well as mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of youth and adult learning and education programs. This calls for the need for governments to rethink literacy programs and expand them beyond the three Rs. It requires political will to review and expand curriculum as well as provide adequate financing in light of international financing best practices and benchmarks , and data that shows success stories from the programs.
Unfortunately most African programs are underfunded, and show little evidence of broader definition of literacy to encapsulate lifelong learning, livelihoods and entrepreneurship. The scenario make it difficult for these programs to have a life-long sustainable effect on the learners and so, make a dent on poverty and enhance prosperity. Research, and learning from each other, is key in driving literacy and education quality improvement. This is manifested in curriculum reviews, improved learner materials (particularly in local languages), and improved assessment learners.
While Wollie’s article has tackled some critical issues and perspectives that require attention on the continent, I think his audience could have gained a lot from his vast experience if he showed some evidence from Ethiopia and other African countries and elsewhere on how to innovate in literacy programs. As someone close to the African Office in Addis, I also expected to hear some pointers as to what the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (SADC, ECOWAS, EAC etc) are doing to promote sharing and learning across the countries. This is especially important given that the Continental Education Strategy For Africa (CESA) dedicates some paragraphs on literacy as being pivotal for solving Africa’s problems; however, there is little to show in terms of how the ambitions in CESA are being translated into reality. On the whole, Wollie has succeeded in provoking some thoughts from me (and also, I hope other readers) to discuss a topic that is critical for Africa’s prosperity. What do other commentators say?
Links to the AED 85/2018 publication in three languages: English, French, Spanish
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