By Olimatou Coker
The Minister of Basic and Secondary Education Honourable Claudiana A. Cole on Wednesday 28th October 2020 participated in the annual general meeting of Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL) through a webinar. The high-level meeting attracted the participation of ministers from other GAL member countries such as the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Afghanistan. The African Union Commissioner, Human Resources, Sciences, and Technology Ms. Sarah Anyang Agbor was also among the key speakers at the online meeting as well as Ms Alexa Joyce, Director, Future-Ready Skills at Microsoft.
The objectives of the virtual meeting were to review the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on youth and adult literacy; review national education response plans and strategies in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and beyond; identify areas of support and specific initiatives to respond to new realities in light of the GAL strategic goals; and to establish the composition of the new Steering Group and the co-Chairs.
In delivering her statement, Minister Cole stressed the need to review not only formal education programs but also the Adult and Non-formal literacy as well. “Particularly, during this COVID crisis that has affected the whole world and education is no exception,” she said.
Continuing, she said prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic The Gambia had 177 literacy centers in the country most of which are located in the rural areas and 84% of the participants at the centers are mainly female. The minister also noted the literacy activities these centers were needs based programming where participants learn basic functional literacy, numeracy, civic education, and indigenous languages. In addition, they are also exposed to disaster risk management, climate change mitigation and basic life and livelihood skills. She explained that the major aims of literacy programs are meant to empower the participants and give them opportunities for self-employability.
The Minister further shared that her ministry has started to engage partners to help build a more resilient system that will ensure a strengthened environment for literacy activities for the continuity of learning. ‘Undoubtedly, this COVID pandemic has created the need for the opening of new centers as the pandemic situation has impacted dropout rates from formal education. The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is determined to work with partners to make sure that those who have left school are not left behind’, she remarked.
However, she did not conclude without highlighting some of the challenges the Adult and Non-formal Education Unit in her ministry faces as well as literacy providers. Key among these challenges are low capacity and inadequacy of material resources. Inclusion of ICT in adult literacy programs. Strengthening the capacity of non-formal education operatives. Limited permanent structures and furniture for adult literacy centers.
Lastly, she expressed her ministry’s willingness to collaborate with partners in its drive to mitigate the effects of the disruption of learning the pandemic has rendered the education system in The Gambia and continue to implore the global community to strive for the successful achievement of Universal literacy especially of disadvantaged and marginalized groups as indicated by the Sustainable Development Goal 4.6.