Inter-Ministerial Conference of the Inter-Country Quality Node on Literacy and National Languages

02 May 2013 to 04 May 2013
Burkina Faso

A. Context and Justification

Illiteracy is a phenomenon that is simultaneously national and cross-border: it is persistent and widespread throughout the world. Its harmful effects, which are felt most strongly in the African space, are a frightening source of vulnerability for people.

In this context, the numerous consultations and initiatives undertaken by UNESCO, the African Union, the ADEA and other institutions during the decade, particularly in the context of Education For All, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nations Decade for Literacy (UNLD 2003-2012), the First and Second decades of Education for Africa and the LIFE initiative, have reinforced the understanding of the African countries of the role that education in general and literacy in particular play in the continent's economic and social development. 

According to the global reports monitoring EFA, the MDGs and other summaries of the world situation, education and training for all represents a persistent challenge for most countries, especially those of sub-Saharan Africa. In this sub-region, about 150 million adults, two-thirds of them women, have not yet mastered the core skills needed for their own autonomy and to play an effective role in development.

Post Conference Documents  

    • Proceedings of the Ministerial Conference , PDF

Conference Documents

    • Draft Conference Concept Note, PDF
    • Draft-Three-Year Programme of Action, PDF

This situation has been aggravated by economic poverty, the undermining of the foundations of social cohesion, policies that do not sufficiently include educational and cultural components, the financial and economic crisis, which is being accompanied by a reduction in foreign aid, the effects of climate change, and pandemics.

For all these reasons, access to education should be seen not simply as a right, but rather as a meta-instrument through which the individual and the community acquire other basic rights, as well as skills and knowledge to gain access to a decent economic activity, so that they can contribute to a culture of peace, to democracy and to gender equality, throughout their lives.

To support this new vision of education, countries are increasingly being questioned about the fundamental issue of the quality of literacy provision.

In the field of non-formal education specifically, findings reveal a diversity of successful practices across our respective countries. There are a variety of innovative and alternative educational approaches that can be adapted to the different conditions of people who are illiterate and children who have never attended school or left early. These can be shared in order to facilitate the overall achievement of the qualitative and quantitative objectives of literacy and training.

The African regional conference in Bamako held in September 2007 and the recent resolution of UNESCO’s General Conference recommended that the States cooperate more closely and continue to establish partnerships, in particular in the field of literacy and training.

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) supports this strategy for mutually supportive development and is encouraging the countries to create quality nodes designed to help the African states to confront their common challenges and to make use of a process of inter-learning and pooling experience in order to eliminate illiteracy and develop common core skills for basic education and training. 

The international technical workshop on the challenges facing the Inter-Country Quality Node on Literacy held in Ouagadougou from 20 to 22 December 2010 was part of this process. Thirteen African countries took part in the workshop, which focused on discussion on the strategies needed to identify the common challenges and priorities for our countries with respect to literacy. The countries represented included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Gambia. Similarly, the Ouagadougou conference held from 20 to 22 January 2010 took as its point of departure the development of a policy manual on the integration of African languages into education, which was very useful for the promotion of African languages and for taking cultural diversity into account. This conference involved a number of the continent’s countries. Consequently, the issue of national languages has now been integrated into the Inter-Country Quality Node, thus giving birth to the new Inter-Country Quality Node on Literacy and National Languages.

Various regional and international organizations, civil society and the private sector were also represented at the workshop and the conference.

The process of ongoing exchange around the priority issues identified in the course of the workshop laid the foundation for developing a joint three-year development programme to be validated; hence the need to organize a regional ministerial conference to deal with the conclusions of the technical workshop and the conference and to adopt mechanisms for their implementation.

This would also provide an opportunity to continue the discussion about alternative approaches, certain of which were presented at the 2012 Ouagadougou Triennale. This conference could also contribute to disseminating and better taking on board the numerous best practices that exist in the field, thereby facilitating the difficult transition from rhetoric to action.

The results of the implementation of this programme will serve as a basis for the proposals and recommendations to be formulated for the post-2015 period. 

B. Objectives of the Conference

General objective

  • To help foster the cohesive and efficient development of literacy and the national languages and the more widespread sharing of best practices in non-formal education in Africa.

Specific objectives

  1. To validate the action programme proposed by the technical workshop for the Inter-Country Quality Node on Literacy and National Languages;
  2. To strengthen South-South cooperation by capitalizing on successful alternative educational approaches in the field of non-formal education and the use of national languages;
  3. To propose concrete methods for implementing an approved joint three-year programme, with a particular emphasis on the partnerships to be forged, capacity building and the mobilization of the resources needed to achieve these objectives.

C. Results Expected

  1. An action programme that takes account of the common concerns of the participating countries will have been examined and approved;
  2. A summary document of successful alternative educational approaches will be available and have been submitted for the attention of the ministers;
  3. The methods for implementing an initial three-year programme will have been defined and realistic proposals formulated with respect to the functioning of the Node, partnerships, capacity-building and the mobilization of financial and human resources.

D. Methodology

The work will take place during a seminar; the first two days will be essentially technical, with a conference on the last day. 

The seminar

The seminar is planned for the experts and administrators of literacy and national languages programmes from the ministries concerned, from civil society and from the development partners.

Several alternative approaches will be presented, each for about 15 minutes. At the end of the presentations, a 45-minute period will be set aside for discussion. After that, the participants will gather in groups to draw lessons with respect to the themes identified. The lessons will then all be summarized so that they can be presented to the ministers.

The document on the challenges facing the Node will also be presented for discussion and technical validation.
In light of these two documents, a document on the implementation of an initial joint three-year plan will be drawn up.

The conference

The conference, which is planned for the ministers or their representatives, will focus on the presentation, discussion and adoption of the three proposed documents:

  • The Node's programme of action, drawn up by the heads of literacy and national languages during the meeting from 20 to 22 December in Ouagadougou and then validated technically by the experts during the technical workshop from 18 to 20 March 2013.
  • The document on promising alternative approaches.
  • The document on the methods of implementing the initial joint three-year programme, which includes proposals on the ways the Node should function, the partnerships to build up around the Node, capacity-building and the mobilization of the required financial and human resources.

The documents containing the action programme adopted by the ministers for the Node will be distributed to the financial partners and serve as a basis for negotiations...

For more information, please refer to the concept note in the above Box 1.

ICQNLNL Focal Point

Mr. Remy HABOU 
Director-General for Literacy
Ministry of National Education and Literacy 
B.P. 7032 Ouagadougou 03 
Burkina Faso
Tel: +226-7026 9351
Fax: +226 50 31 42 76 
Email :

Inter-Country Quality Node: