Inaugural World Literacy Summit
PRIMARY SCHOOL ENROLLMENT INCREASED worldwide by 95 percent over the past six decades, according to the first-ever World Literacy Summit in Oxford, England. Unfortunately, this statistic is deceptive, because 200 million children in school cannot read. Along with over 200 delegates representing governments, academia, and NGOs from nearly 50 countries, I attended the Summit to share our passion: to eliminate illiteracy worldwide. Even though many countries have recently introduced universal primary education and more children are attending school, most of them remain illiterate and are not learning.
Literacy is a foundational life skill and is strongly correlated with life expectancy; unfortunately, the bad news is the UN’s Millennium Development Goals for universal education will not be met by the 2015 deadline. Poorly trained teachers and a lack of learning resources (like books!) represent the two greatest challenges.
The good news? The African Library Project has been proactively addressing both of these issues. We promote teacher training and start libraries in schools and communities with few or no books. Teacher-librarian training occurs in different ways, depending on the country: In Swaziland and Ghana, our partners provide teacher-librarians with a one- or two-day program; in Lesotho, Peace Corps runs on-site workshops for remote locales; in Malawi, Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) has a Teacher Training College with a 2.5-year course that trains teachers to use a child-centered learning approach; and in Botswana, new teacher-librarians visit already-established libraries for hands-on learning.
ALP has partnered with DAPP Malawi since 2008. DAPP’s parent organization, Humana, manages 38 teacher training colleges in Africa. At the Summit, I attended a Humana workshop and was impressed by their unique and very practical teacher-training system. They teach teachers how to build and fix schools, organize community clean-up projects, and think critically. We are thrilled to be partners with DAPP and plan to strengthen this relationship.
As the only all-volunteer organization at the Summit, our track record of starting 727 libraries drew much attention. I am even more committed to our model of providing books in working, sustainable, libraries. The Summit concluded with creating The Oxford Declaration. Its first priority recommends fostering strong, well-trained, committed teachers and improving teaching resources.
I am proud that ALP is addressing these most critical necessities, and we will continue to develop and cultivate partnerships both in the US and Africa to continue doing what we do best—changing lives, book by book.
Chris Bradshaw, Founder