Literacy, training and employment for women

Country Profile: Algeria

Population

37,900,000 (2010)

Official language

Arabic

Poverty (Population living on less than 2 US $ per day):

15% (1990–2005)

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2007)
  • Total : 24.6%
  • Male: 17.1%
  • Female: 32.3%

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAFIF: Alphabétisation, Formation et Insertion des Femmes (Literacy, training and employment for women)
Implementing OrganizationIQRAA (Algerian literacy association)
Language of InstructionArabic
FundingCommission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme
Conseil National de la Langue Arabe
UN agencies: UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO
Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)
The Japanese embassy in Algeria
Contributions from members and foreign donors
Algerian government, including the ministry of vocational training
Private-sector companies: Sonatrach, Arcofino and Nedjma
Mayor’s office, El Khroub
Programme PartnersThe Algerian government and town councils
The ministries of education, vocational training, social welfare and culture
Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)
National and private-sector companies: Sonatrach, Nedjma, Saidal, and Arcofino
Annual Programme CostsUS $ 144,000 for the Attatba centre
Date of Inception2005

Context

In 1962, when Algeria became independent, it set up a huge literacy programme. More than 85 percent of the population was illiterate, and despite considerable investment and progress in education, low levels of literacy remain a challenge today. According to the last census in 2008, twenty-two percent of the country’s 39 million population could not read.

As part of the Millennium Development Objectives and the United Nations Literacy Decade, and having already made major educational reforms, the government established a national strategy aimed at halving illiteracy. This defines the role of NGOs in the processes of consultation, increasing awareness of the issue, and training teachers in the public and private sectors. As a part of the strategy IQRAA, the Algerian Literacy Association, launched a major programme known as AFIF: Alphabétisation, Formation et Insertion des Femmes, or Literacy, Training and Employment for Women.

The programme

Organisation

IQRAA is a national NGO, established in 1990 to promote support for education in general, and adult education in particular. It covers all forty-eight of Algeria’s wilaya, or departments, and 952 of its 1,541 local authorities. The organisation also employs a large number of volunteers.

Since its creation, IQRAA has set itself two major objectives: to assist in implementing the Millennium Development Goals and United Nations Literacy Decade, and to promote human development through social solidarity, respect for learners, gender equality, combating illiteracy and ensuring that all children receive an education.

The organisation’s responsibilities include literacy, education, vocational training, employment programmes, and improving conditions for people in isolated rural areas. It has invested in numerous literacy projects, mainly targeted at women, and gained wide-ranging experience in this area. IQRAA’s dedication has earned it numerous national and international awards, including the International Council for Adult Education’s J. Roby Kidd Award in 1994, the Arab Education, Culture and Science Organisation’s Arab Literacy Prize in 1998, UNESCO’s Noma International Literacy Award in 1997, the Arab Literacy Prize in 2002, and the UNESCO Literary Literacy Awards in 2014.

The AFIF program, initiated by IQRAA, gives people the opportunity to obtain professional qualifications in such areas as dressmaking and hairdressing, and then go on to make a living from these occupations. The government also provides help in the form of microcredit and office jobs. The programme is particularly aimed at women over fifteen and at girls who do not attend school, and has been highly successful in combining literacy with social development and improving the lives of families and communities.

Main objectives

The programme teaches women and girls to read and write, acquire the professional skills they need to earn a living, and make a greater contribution to the community. It aims to help those who have not received a proper education, and to enable poor people in isolated rural areas to achieve greater social integration, financial wellbeing, and independence.

IQRAA also operates a programme for women who have been excluded and marginalised because they lack the skills required to access education in the first place. This is called “Alphabétisation, Qualification”, and seeks to help women overcome hardship by developing everyday life skills, playing a greater part in the local community, becoming more independent, acquiring professional qualifications, turning their plans into reality, finding paid jobs and participating in local development. It also gives them greater responsibility in the form of collaborative management, and provides them with the resources they need to achieve the project’s objectives.

Realisation of the programme

A number of players are working together to ensure that this project is a success:

  1. Local authorities, which provide either land on which to build literacy centres, or existing premises which are then restored and equipped by IQRAA
  2. Corporate sponsors that provide practical support and equipment for the centres
  3. Activists who recruit potential learners and assess their suitability
  4. Teachers, who are themselves taught training skills
  5. An education committee, which draws up, monitors and evaluates the curriculum, and has also published textbooks as part of the “Apprendre Utile” programme
  6. Project expertise

AFIF centres are managed by staff paid by local authorities as part of their youth employment strategies, and report to IQRAA, which has its own set of internal rules to ensure that they function effectively.

Training the facilitators

Training sessions are led by facilitators, who have varying degrees of qualifications and experience when they are recruited. Some have undergone three years of secondary education, others have a baccalaureate, and others still are graduates. Each facilitator teaches 15 to 20 students, depending on the location, and IQRAA provides them with initial and continuous training once they have passed an interview. They work fulltime and are paid the equivalent of $153 a month, which is funded by the education ministry.

Facilitators are recruited by the National Literacy and Education Office, and their training is governed by national standards. Each year for the duration of their employment, IQRAA provides them with onsite training refresher training sessions, held in September under the aegis of its education committee. Teaching is ultimately supervised by inspectors appointed by the department.

Student teaching

This project is aimed at illiterate women aged 16 to 35, who are chosen on the basis of background studies in areas where there is sufficient demand, so the number of students varies from one centre to another. Each receives an average of 18 months’ teaching, though it may take as little as three to six months to obtain qualifications depending on the skills required and the student’s existing knowledge. The average number of students per group varies between 15 and 20. Courses may begin at any time of year, depending on students’ availability, and are free of charge.

IQRAA holds training sessions in a variety of locations, including its own purpose-built and equipped teaching centres in various locations around the country, and schools that are not used during holiday periods.

The teaching methodology begins with a study by the AFIF of participants’ needs, which are then used to determine the nature of the programmes. The study assesses potential students’ social, economic and geographical backgrounds, and they are then interviewed by volunteers to gain an understanding of their objectives and reasons for wishing to take part.

Students are taught using both traditional and more participatory methods. The course content is determined in partnership with the government, since the association is responsible for managing the national literacy campaign instigated by the government in 2007. The content was drawn up collaboratively with the AFIF education committee, consisting of teachers, psychologists and advocates, which is responsible for developing educational tools in accordance with national and international guidelines.

The courses are provided in Arabic. They cover a variety of subjects, such as gender studies, citizenship, the environment, peace and tolerance, human rights, preventive health, the fight against AIDS, Algeria’s family code, the universal declaration of human rights, and social justice.

1. Literacy

The AFIF project regards literacy as an essential way of reinforcing women’s skills. IQRAA literacy courses teach them to read and write and thus become informed citizens who play an active part in their communities. The association has produced a series of booklets on related subjects, such as family planning, citizenship, peace, human rights and the environment. As well as helping women to develop reading and writing skills, literacy teaching allows them to become more informed about issues relating to their everyday lives.

2. Training

The centres provide a series of courses on specific themes, using teaching methods which have enjoyed proven success around the country because they offer immediate benefits, such as the ability to earn income from activities like dressmaking, embroidery, and silk painting.

Most parts of the country have a long tradition of embroidery and weaving, using popular traditional motifs that vary from one region to another. Embroidered pieces are widely used in everyday life: for example shawls are particularly popular in Ouargla, while Sidi Hammed is known for its painted silk cushions.

Trainers in these skills are recruited locally by the association and paid by local authorities. Many are women who have themselves acquired high-level literacy skills from the association.

3. Earning a living

Students then put their newly acquired theoretical knowledge into practice by setting up small businesses. They receive loans to acquire sewing machines and other equipment, and the association uses the interest from these to help other women become more independent. This scheme was first carried out on an experimental basis in the city of Batna, using equipment acquired by the social security ministry.

The project was instigated in 1995, in collaboration with UNICEF, which provided the association with thirty sewing machines. Since then, more than 28,000 women have benefited from it, and IQRAA has nine full-time centres providing training to over 1,500 women a year.

Innovations

The main innovation is the link between literacy, education and development. Literacy teaching is followed by training in specific subjects which aims to make participants more entrepreneurial and independent within their communities. Literacy is a tool that enables them to get more out of the subject training and become independent by earning a living.

The programme is based on the principle of equal access to education and training, and designed in collaboration with the public sector, creating a synergy between public- and private-sector resources.

Programme monitoring and evaluation

Students are monitored every three months and evaluated at the end of the year, receiving literacy and training certificates if they pass. Evaluations are the responsibility of the National Literacy Office.

IQRAA has carried out impact studies at a number of centres to measure the progress achieved as a result of the project. One of these took place at the Tipaza centre in May 2004, and another in July of the same year. An evaluation of the programmes has shown that they have had a significant impact, particularly in terms of building local training centres in rural areas. Some of these serve as relevant indicators of the project’s progress, and it has expanded so fast that the ministry of vocational training has set up its own scheme, known as the mécanisme d’alphabétisation-qualification, or literacy and skills mechanism. IQRAA’s experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of providing women with training in their own local areas. The specialist who carried out the impact study at the Attabla centre made it very clear that they had acquired greater visibility, played a more participatory and responsible role in the community, and changed their patterns of behaviour compared to those of surrounding villages.

These effects should be seen not in isolation, but as a product of mechanisms set up by the government to create opportunities for social integration in rural areas. There is strong demand for literacy education from women of all ages, thanks in no small part to the flexibility and convenience of the project and the future prospects it offers.

Results of the programme

The programme has made a significant contribution to combating illiteracy and improving the socioeconomic status of women and girls in Algeria. Each year, more than 130,000 students receive literacy teaching, and 2,500 women aged 16 to 35 receive specific skills training as part of the AFIF scheme, including dressmaking, embroidery, weaving, silk painting, hairdressing, and information technology.

As well as using schools outside formal opening hours, the AFIF project has enabled the construction and equipping of nine rural literacy centres with the help of significant contributions from local authorities, international bodies, and Algerian companies such as Sonatrach, Saidal, Nedjma and Sonelgaz. IQRAA also uses over fifty buildings in specific departments of the country which are owned by local authorities but surplus to requirements.

The non-literacy education places a particular emphasis on social issues, and this is reflected in the significant literature that has been produced as a result of the project. This includes a series of educational brochures and audiovisual productions on subjects such as family planning, HIV-AIDS prevention, conflict resolution, citizenship, the environment, and the family code. Most recently, the organisation has published a manual on prisoners’ rights and responsibilities.

The AFIF project has allowed women in the regions concerned to set up profitable businesses, with a system of loans enabling them to buy the equipment they need. The repayments allow other women to obtain loans and buy equipment.

These achievements have earned IQRAA numerous national and international awards, and it has shown an ability to mobilise human and financial resources and engage in national and international lobbying. The education ministry has provided a grant of $5.6 million to step up the adult literacy and training programmes, with a view to teaching 3.2 million people to read and write by 2015.

Challenges and lessons learned

The programme has also encountered a number of challenges. The two most important are the belief in some circles that women in this age group are too old to acquire literacy skills, and bureaucratic delays in granting access to schools.

But the biggest challenge facing the association is that of reducing illiteracy, which currently stands at 22.1 percent. It has experienced widespread public inertia, and is therefore considering a communication strategy involving the media and businesses. IQRAA has also organised public activities to increase awareness of its aims, including literacy roadshows in villages and isolated areas, and is considering the construction of a mobile school in southern Algeria for nomads and others who have not benefited from the availability of funds.

The AFIF project has also created an awareness of the real problems faced by women in rural areas, such as travelling long distances to school, a lack of transport, and the absence of boarding facilities and canteens. It is one of a number of responses to public needs and expectations.

The project has been evaluated by an expert as part of an study of its impact on its beneficiaries. This was carried out by the Centre National d’Étude et d’Analyse de la Population, and concluded: “Opening local centres has made women more visible and given them a greater sense of participation and responsibility.” The association believes that such descriptions amply justify the project and the need to continue working in the same direction, particularly in view of the courage and determination shown by women who have achieved independence despite a large number of obstacles.

A number of lessons can be drawn from this innovative experiment:

The project’s long-term future

The project has become self-sustaining. Since it was founded, IQRAA has helped to provide literacy teaching for more than 1,552,000 individuals, mainly women, and enabled more than 23,000 women aged 18 to 35 to acquire vocational skills in a variety of areas.

Each year, 140,000 people (again, mainly women) take part in the literacy programme with the help of 4,649 paid teachers and trainers, as part of the national literacy strategy adopted by the government in 2007.

IQRAA is a member of several international networks and councils, and has observer status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. These local and global connections help to ensure the long-term future of the project, whose outcomes are reviewed in June of each year by the ministry of education.

Since 1995, AFIF has achieved proven results and continued to attract illiterate and poorly educated women. Its viability has been confirmed by their success in gaining employment, becoming more independent, changing their family relationships, and benefiting from microcredit for students in rural areas. The project’s financial viability is ensured by the support of local and national government.

Contact

Ms Aicha BARKI
President,
Association algérienne d’Alphabétisation « IQRAA »
04, Rue Wargnier –Algier centre –ALGIER
Telephone: 00 213 21 73 52 47
Fax : 00 213 21 73 52 47
E-mail : iqraa.asso (at) gmail.com
Web : http://www.iqraa.asso.dz