ADEA commemorates International Literacy Day, calls for more commitments to improve Africa’s learning outcomes

Today is International Literacy Day, a global commemorative day for heightened awareness on adult and child literacy. As an open and flexible pan-African organization that informs and facilitates the transformation of education and training that will drive Africa’s accelerated and sustainable development, ADEA joins the world at large, and education actors in particular, in celebrating achievements in improved literacy. The 2023 International Literacy Day (ILD2023) is also an opportunity to highlight the challenges we face in education in Africa, including in improving literacy, and demand heightened action from our members and partners to address the challenges and improve learning outcomes in Africa. It is a non-negotiable imperative to deliver a progressive and transformed future for Africa. This is only achievable through access to relevant and quality education for all. 

The theme for this year is ‘Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies’. Under this theme, the world will reflect and explore literacy as a tool that can transform and deliver concrete development. We acknowledge that no development can happen in a society with weak education systems or poor learning outcomes. As such, enhancing literacy is critical to sustaining a peaceful society and ensuring a sustainable future, including that of our planet. Suffice to say that after the three necessities of life - food, clothing and shelter - education and indeed literacy is next in the order of importance.

In a world experiencing transition in multiple dimensions, today is yet another opportunity to take stock and ensure that our learning systems are fit for purpose, especially in Africa. For instance, increased awareness on climate change and environmental sustainability demands that we rethink the skills required to leverage the new, emerging opportunities from a green economy. Equally, the COVID-19 pandemic has left every policymaker in Africa thinking through initiatives that guarantee learning continuity in the face of crisis, towards resilience. The associated technological advancements means that we must teach the skills required to thrive in a world mediated by machine learning and artificial intelligence, components of the 4th Industrial Revolution. 

Happily, ADEA has remained alive to these realities by leveraging its convening power to keep these issues on the front burner, mediate partnerships that will enable our member countries to address their education-related challenges while sharing lessons that will support large scale adoption of working innovations. 

  • Just yesterday, 7th September, we convened the second session of the Ministerial Coalition on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, to understand how much progress countries have made to the commitments made at the ADEA 2022 Triennale and Transforming Education Summit
  • Our Africa Learning Together series and the ADEA Knowledge Hub are key tools we have leveraged to improve the visibility of working solutions that other countries can adopt. 
  • In May, we launched the 34 African countries’ study report on the use of ICT in education and remote learning during crises. This is a critical evidence tool that will help countries in Africa develop the infrastructure and implement additional measures that will help build strong, technology mediated learning systems attuned to the 21st century demands. It is also a critical source that helps countries build resilience. 
  • Following the implementation of the KIX Observatory together with APHRC, we recently released two study reports, including a lessons learned document on the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the educational systems in the seven countries of Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria, and case studies on responses to COVID-19 in African educational systems with a focus on the same seven countries. These studies provide further evidence on how best to manage the transition towards resilience, and a learning system that is adaptable and contextualized.
  • Our study on the vocationalization of secondary education speaks to our effort in providing evidence that will support the design of adult literacy programs that prepares young Africans early enough for the world of work. 
  • In May, our Inter-Country Quality Node on Technical and Vocational Skills Development (ICQN-TVSD) reviewed national strategies that are geared towards imparting and strengthening vocational skills in Chad and countries within the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region. 
  • Our ICQN on Teaching and Learning also held a workshop that discussed options available to African countries to leverage the skills, institutional memories and experiences of retired teachers to deepen learning outcomes. This is in response to the declining number of teachers in African classrooms. 

These efforts demonstrate how ADEA is supporting its member countries to strengthen their learning systems in a way that brings about sustainable development, aligned with the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016 - 2025 (CESA-16-25) and the 4th component of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-4) on Education. 

Literacy is central to equipping Africans with the relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and competencies, transforming education, and shaping more sustainable and peaceful societies. It empowers people and improves self-esteem, creativity, and critical thinking. Literacy contributes not only to generating personal benefits, such as better well-being and economic conditions, but also social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental gains. This is what Africa needs now and ADEA is central to these African ambitions. Therefore, we call on our partners, policymakers, and friends of Africa to re-energize their determination and commitment to a prosperous continent through quality education and learning.

Happy International Literacy Day!