Projet d’Alphabétisation des Jeunes Filles et Jeunes Femmes avec les Technologies de l’Information (PAJEF): Literacy Project for Girls and Women in Senegal

Country Profile: Senegal

Population

14,221,000 (2013)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

22.3% (1990-2004)

Official Languages

French (Wolof, Peul, Sérère, Mandingue, Soninké, Diola and Manjaque are recognised regional languages)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

5.6 (2010)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

71.1 (2014)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)
  • Total: 69.8% (2015)
  • Male: 75.9%
  • Female: 63.6%
Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 55.6% (2015)
  • Male: 68.4%
  • Female: 43.8%
Sources

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Programme Overview

Programme TitleProjet d’Alphabétisation des Jeunes Filles et Jeunes Femmes avec les Technologies de l’Information (Literacy Project for Girls and Women in Senegal – PAJEF)
Implementing OrganizationUNESCO Office in Dakar
Language of InstructionPular, Wolof, Mandinka and French
FundingUNESCO, Proctor & Gamble
Programme PartnersInstitutional: Ministry of Education, Directorate in charge of Literacy and National Languages (La Direction de l’Alphabétisation et des langues nationales, DALN), National Centre for Educational Resources (Le Centre National de Ressources Educationnelles, CNRE), Directorate for School Radio and TV (La Direction de la Radio Télévision Scolaire, DRTS); Civil society: National Coalition for Alternative and Popular Education (Le Collectif National d’Éducation Alternative et Populaire, CNEAP), National Coordination of Literacy Providers in Senegal (La Coordination Nationale des Opérateurs en alphabétisation, CNOAS)
Annual Programme CostsUS $484,000 (US $1,000,000 for two-year implementation)
Date of InceptionJanuary 2012

Country Context and Background

Senegal is ranked 117th out of 127 countries in the Education for All Development Index (UNESCO, 2012). It is unlikely to meet all of its Education for All (EFA) goals by 2015, despite already achieving some of those goals, namely on gender parity in education and the enrolment of girls in primary education. Despite investing around 4% of GDP in education and achieving close to 100% access to primary education, retention continues to be a problem, resulting in a completion rate of just 51% (UNESCO, 2012). There are fundamental problems behind these figures, as shown in the 2013 Human Development Report, which places Senegal 154th out of 187 countries (UNDP, 2013).

Illiteracy is a major problem in Senegal, particularly for women. Fewer than four out of 10 women (39%) in Senegal are considered literate, compared to 62% of men. This means that more than two million Senegalese women lack basic literacy skills (UNESCO, 2012). And the numbers are substantially worse in the poorest parts of the country. Poverty in Senegal is a result not only of very low financial income, but also of a lack of opportunity and capacity to improve one’s situation. Improved levels of education significantly increase people’s chances of rising out of the lowest levels of poverty. For several years, alternative forms of literacy education have been used in Senegal, focused on the introduction of basic community schools and functional literacy centres. These institutions are designed primarily for people from disadvantaged groups, such as young people and women who lack formal schooling, enabling them to acquire the literacy skills necessary to continue their education. Classes held at these centres were popular in the early 2000s, but numbers fell sharply when funding was reduced in 2005 (UNESCO, 2007).

Despite two decades of innovation in literacy programmes, it is clear that there remains a need to systematically address the specific issues facing girls and women in Senegal. There are too many young girls at risk of dropping out of school, and too many girls and women with an extremely low level of schooling who are already out of the school system. These problems are compounded by the the number of girls and women who are in situations of extreme poverty and vulnerability. Without literacy skills, and, more pertinently, literacy skills relevant to the problems of daily life, this population will only perpetuate the cycle of poverty, deepening social and economic inequality in the country. This is particularly clear in a number of regions in Senegal which report not only very low levels of literacy but also a very significant disparity between the sexes. This is illustrated in the following table.

Table 1: Illiteracy rates in Senegal by region and for women (Source: ANDS/Enquête de suivi de la pauvreté au Sénégal, période 2005–2006)

Region% of Illiteracy % of which are women
Matam (North East) 72% 57%
Kédougou (South East) 64% 85%
Diourbel (Centre) 70% 75%
Kolda (South) 58% 84%
Fatick (Centre) 60% 55%
Kaffrine (Centre) 65% 76%

Measures have been taken to reduce this disparity. Between 2008 and 2015, the Ministry of Education included among its strategic objectives:

The focus is not only on getting girls into primary education, but on finding ways in which girls and women can access learning, be it formal or non-formal, at every stage of life, regardless of their level of education.

In the past seven years, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) has increased significantly in Senegal. It has been the focus of various projects, including Girls in ICT Day, which has been organised by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy since 2013, and aims to reduce the wide gender gap in the ICT sector.

The table below gives an overview of ICT levels in Senegal, by household and by individual, and in relation to other regions and the rest of the world:

Table 2: ICT levels in Senegal by household and by individual, in relation to other regions and the rest of the world (Sources: ITU Statistics and ARTP)

Senegal (%) Africa (%)Developing Countries (%)Developed Countries(%)World (%)Source and Year
Households
Radio78.5 (ITU, 2010)
TV62.0 (ITU, 2010)
Fixed-line phone13.81.511.944.617.8(ITU, 2010)
Mobile phone92.0 (ITU, 2010)
Computer8.06.725.473.238.5(ITU, 2011)
Internet access4.53.716.466.329.9(ITU, 2010)
Individuals
Computer29.9(ITU, 2009)
Mobile phone64.438.058.2112.168.0(ITU, 2009)
76.84 (ARTP, 2011)
83.57 (ARTP, 2012)
Internet17.512.624.370.532.5(ARTP & ITU, 2011)
Active mobile broadband subscriptions2.814.68.356.816.7(ITU, 2011)

Senegal is reported to have the highest internet bandwidth in the Sub-Saharan region, with an above-average use for the continent, both on a household and an individual level (ARTP, 2011). These differences reflect, in part, the popular use of internet cafés in Senegal, which are still regarded as a more affordable option. Active mobile broadband subscriptions are increasing, but figures for 2011 show they are a little lower than the average for the continent (ITU, 2011).

Mobile phone use has risen sharply, from just 30% in 2007 (ITU, 2011) to over 80% in 2012 (ARTP, 2012). Efforts have been made to ensure this extended coverage does not leave behind people living in rural areas.

Other forms of ICTs used in Senegal for educational purposes include radio, television, DVDs and CDs. The following table shows the proportion of households in Senegal with radio, television and/or CD and DVD readers, with figures given for Dakar, other towns and rural areas.

Table 3: Audiovisual Equipment levels in households in Senegal by urban level (Number of equipments per household; Survey ENTICS ARTP - 2009)

RadioTVSatellite dishDVD/CD player
Dakar 1.1 1.2 0.145 0.492
Other towns 1.2 0.9 0.255 0.369
Rural zones 1.6 0.4 0.126 0.177
Total Senegal 1.4 0.8 0.157 0.306

Programme Overview

The Literacy Project for Girls and Women in Senegal (PAJEF) was set up by UNESCO Dakar to improve the literacy skills of girls and women aged between 15 and 55 years and to explore the role ICTs can play in this. Women and girls at various stages of literacy acquisition have participated in the programme, including the newly literate, participants in literacy programmes, and participants in Basic Community School programmes (Écoles Communautaires de Base) and new schools, such as Schools on Street Corners (Écoles coins de rue) and Second Chance Schools (Écoles de Deuxième Chance). The project’s focus is on lifelong learning.

Slogan for the PAJEF programme: Rewrite the future (Source: UNESCO Dakar)

Slogan for the PAJEF programme: Rewrite the future (Source: UNESCO Dakar)

The programme is run as part of the Global Partnership for the Education of Girls and Women, begun by UNESCO and the United Nations Literacy Decade in 2011. The project’s aim is to contribute to the goals of Senegal’s Ten-Year Education and Training Programme (PDEF2, 2011–2020), particularly those pertaining to the education of women and girls, and literacy and non-formal education.

It also contributes to the Education For All goals, notably goal 4 (achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy), goal 3 (ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met) and goal 5 (achieving gender equality in education), as well as the Millennium Development Goals concerning poverty, women’s empowerment and maternal mortality.

The programme is overseen by UNESCO Dakar, with specific partners responsible for different aspects of the technical implementation of the project (see Programme Key Information for a full list). The roles played by each of the partners are briefly summarised below:

Each of the partners is required to carry out monitoring and evaluation at each stage of the programme, as well as to submit certified financial and technical reports to UNESCO.

While these are the main partners in the programme, PAJEF has also taken steps to include the whole community in the project, rejecting more traditional, managerial approaches to education.

Aims and Objectives

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

The programme has used a number of different approaches to learning, including face-to-face classes, ICT-based tuition and the use of television programmes. Courses are available on CD, on television, online and on mobile applications. This means that as well as improving their literacy skills, participants are also able to improve other skills relevant to day-to-day life in Senegal, including IT skills and vocational skills.

PAJEF has opened up more than 200 classrooms, equipped with digital kit which includes a laptop, an interactive beamer and an infrared stylus touch pen used to write on a digital board. Adapted software is also included in the kit. These were provided by the Sankoré programme, an educational partnership involving the GIP ENA (a public interest group for digital education in Africa), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNESCO Dakar. Examples of the technology used and its installation process can are on the Sankoré website.

The software, called Open Sankoré, is simple to use, as are the other components of the digital kit. Any adjustments can be made directly on the digital board. The software and other equipment have been designed to encourage participation and, thus, to promote an active rather than a passive approach to learning. They can be readily adapted to the changing needs of learners as they progress.

The wall of the classroom, painted white during installation, is used as the digital board, or interactive wall. Through the video projector, or interactive beamer, the infrared stylus touch pen can be used to illustrate the lesson on the wall. The text can be easily manipulated, deleted, modified and saved for later use. Supplementary material and interactive lessons, stored on an online database, can be accessed via the internet when required. Laptop connection means that lesson materials and other resources can easily be generated and presented on the digital board.

A partnership with RTS (Radio Télévision Sénégalaise), Senegal’s national television station, has helped make television a key feature in the classroom, with various news and educational programmes used during classes. This helps ensure that participants not only improve their basic literacy skills, but also learn about nutrition, health, the environment and other important issues. A television programme focused specifically on the promotion of literacy skills has also been developed (see below).

The DRTS oversees the production of the television and radio programmes used in the project. Twelve programmes were commissioned at the outset, in seven regions of Senegal. The programmes were shown not only in the classroom but also in community multimedia centres.

The online classes were developed by ICT company Boîte à Innovations, in partnership with the CNOAS and UNESCO’s regional office for education in Africa (BREDA), which is based in Dakar. They used an approach called ‘Alpha-omedia’, which permits users to learn at their own pace, as well as to track their progress and select their courses. An Android-based mobile application, designed to be used offline, was developed with the Coalition of Literacy Practitioners, to enable learners to complete some modules on their mobile phones. The CNEAP supported the development of the online learning course and the preparation of pedagogical material.

Slogan for the PAJEF programme: Help my hand write my future(Source: UNESCO Dakar)

Slogan for the PAJEF programme: Help my hand write my future(Source: UNESCO Dakar)

Programme Content

The programme curriculum was based on the national framework of core skills, revised to reflect PAJEF’S fixed teaching requirements. Four areas of the basic framework were maintained, with some reduction in content and a strong emphasis on the ICT dimensions. These four areas are:

These areas constitute the minimum basis for programme content. They can be adapted to meet the specific needs of participants or their communities, as identified at the beginning of each training course. The various modules are developed by the CNRS, with adaptations made for different ICT components, all based on these initial criteria.

During face-to-face classes, mobile phones are used to teach writing through text messages and also to make calculations. Financial support is available for each class (usually 30 learners), to be used in developing income-generating activities. Participating in this part of the programme helps the women and girls strengthen their basic literacy skills through vocational training.

The online programme lasts 12 months, with each of the three modules spanning four months. As well as improving their literacy skills, learners get to develop basic IT skills.

A 10-minute literacy skills television programme is broadcast twice a week as part of a popular women’s show. The programme, called ‘Dieg ak Keureum’ (The Housewife or La femme au foyer), is broadcast during the day and has high viewing figures among women with poor literacy skills. The literacy section includes an introduction, a short literacy or numeracy lesson, and a mini-feature explaining how to put the lesson into practice. The section is broadcast in the local language, Wolof. RTS broadcasts a further programme aimed at encouraging adults to learn, also in Wolof, called ‘Jang du Wess’ (‘It Is Never Too Late To Learn’).

All the lessons from level 1 of the programme have been recorded onto CDs, which have been copied and made available to other literacy classes and community multimedia centres in Senegal.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

Two-day training sessions were organised in each of the programme’s seven target regions, overseen by academy inspectorates. The training was for teachers, programme facilitators and literacy managers and was designed to enable the various field actors to:

The training sessions in each region followed the same outline.

In 2012, 66 literacy coaches, 45 literacy facilitators, 40 support workers and four supervisors received training. In the same year, 110 teachers were trained to teach PAJEF courses and 23 regional literacy ministry staff received training in monitoring, evaluation and management. The training was provided by the CRFPE (Centres Régionaux de Formation du Personnel Enseignant or Regional Centres for Training Teaching Staff).

DALN’s face-to-face classes are facilitated by teachers from state schools who have been given training in adult education. They receive additional compensation for the literacy classes they facilitate.

Each facilitator receives a training guide which includes a copy of the national framework for core skills, as well as tutorial information they need to plan the classes. In 2012, 100 teachers were given extended training by the CNRE, using ICTs, in the use of mobile phones and the internet in literacy and numeracy training. The content of the online teacher training programme is overseen by the DRTS.

The digital kits were delivered to UNESCO Dakar in June 2013 and set up the following month. A series of training sessions were held for teachers and technical teams to familiarise themselves with its use.

Enrolment of Learners

Face-to-face classes were set up in areas chosen because of their high levels of illiteracy and their poor gross enrolment rates – factors which determined the quota for each region for the initial 100 classes.

A key element of the programme was to explore the place of mobile technology and ICTs in literacy learning. It was important to find a way to implement this without significantly adding to the cost of the programme or having to supply additional equipment. To that end, the organisers were careful to find participants who already had access to a smartphone or who lived in an area in which learning centres with ICT equipment were located.

The DALN carried out a study of demand in all the proposed localities. This generated a database which was used to develop awareness campaigns in the target areas to engage participants, in particular those with access to a smartphone, or from areas with adequate access to computers for the ICT component of the programme. The CNOAS, which specializes in the profiling of participants, took charge of enrolment for 2,000 participants in three of the seven regions.

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Programme

The programme was designed using a results-based management approach, which meant that progressive targets were set in line with the programme’s objectives.

The targets directly related to the empowerment of learners and participants include:

The targets directly related to girls in a vulnerable situation, in school or out-of-school, include:

Monitoring of the quality of the programme is carried out by the DALN, and is organized on two levels. First, decentralized monitoring is undertaken by the Inspection Academy (Inspection d’Académie), the Minister of Education’s representative in each region, and the Departmental Inspectorate of National Education (Inspection Départementale de l’Education Nationale). This ensures that all centres are inspected in a systematic way, based on decentralized monitoring, the tools available and the quality of inputs and learning. The Inspection Academy reports to the DALN, which is responsible for overseeing any improvements that need to be made. Second, centralized monitoring is carried out by the DALN. This makes it possible to assess how well the regional results conform to the programme objectives, and to find solutions to problems when they are identified.

Monitoring and evaluation reports are produced for each phase of the project by the DALN, which, along with the CNRE, oversees the production of technical and financial reports as well as the rigorous monitoring of all activities.

The technical and financial reports are submitted to UNESCO and are, additionally, certified by the Ministy of Education’s Directorate General of Administration, Equipments and Coordination of PDEF (Direction générale de l’Administration et des équipements et la coordination du PDEF).

The DRTS also carries out monitoring and evaluation of field activities in relation to the television and radio programmes it has produced for PAJEF. It submits a technical and financial report to BREDA, certified by the Ministry of Education and accompanied by all relevant supporting documents.

At the end of 2013, an evaluation was carried out to analyse the efficiency of the digital kits. The results have yet to be published.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The programme has achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time. In 2012:

While in 2013:

There was also a positive impact on some of the programme’s managing organizations, notably the National Literacy and Languages Directorate (DALN) and the National Centre for Educational Resources (CNRE), both of which were able to assess their ability to effectively manage education-sector resources. Local communities were mobilized and gave substantial support to the project, in terms of in-kind donations, facilitators’ wage increases and the purchase of IT equipment.

The achievements of other projects in the sector, particularly Capacity Development for Education For All (CapEFA), contributed to the success of the PAJEF model and led to its being fine-tuned for use as a model for accelerated literacy acquisition in the context of the EFA and the Millennium Development Goals.

One of the programme’s findings was that the desire to read and write text messages is a major motivating factor in engaging girls and women in literacy learning. Women often have no choice but to ask or pay someone to do this on their behalf. There is also a financial incentive, as text messages are often cheaper than voice calls in Senegal.

The initial results are promising. However, they do not include results for the ICT-based learning programme, which was integrated into the programme in mid-2013. Results for this aspect of the programme will be published separately.

The online classes are currently available to participants in the regions of Dakar, Diourbel and Matam.

Lessons Learned

Challenges

Various challenges were faced, both in the conception phase and during implementation. These raised questions concerning how to:

The training sessions highlighted the lack of IT skills among facilitators, as well as the difficulty some teachers had in seeing the training course through to the end, sometimes because they were obliged to relocate mid-course. Some teachers were reluctant to take ownership of the new technology, while there was a lack of participation in the validation of online modules in local languages.

The shortage of IT equipment combined with issues such as teacher relocation to diminished the motivation of some participants.

While efforts were made to share the ‘Alpha-omedia’ approach to online learning with all the actors, including central authorities, local authorities, communities and others, there was notably lower participation among local authorities.

Profiling potential participants also proved a challenge. In Dakar, for example, working conditions were difficult, with staff working in small and cramped facilities and struggling with the limited availability of candidates. Taking into account all the needs expressed by the participating communities, and translating them into the various ICT interfaces used, in the time allocated, was also challenging. Similarly, insufficient time was available for the creation of applications and interfaces, the translation of the modules into Wolof and Pulaar, and the creation of virtual keyboards for these languages, among other things.

The programme is looking at ways to respond to these challenges. One of the most pressing concerns the lack of IT equipment, particularly tablets and smartphones. A new strategy is under discussion which may include making use of existing IT rooms in the regions. The CNOAS, with the support of the DALN, is pursuing the issue with the relevant inspectorates.

Further training is also planned to help teachers make better use of the online modules. This will probably be in the form of pedagogical days at which questions brought up during monitoring and evaluation can be addressed.

Sustainability

One of the aims of the project was to produce a model that could be replicated on a larger scale. For that reason, it was important to keep costs, which can run high when using ICTs in the classroom, to a minimum.

The project supplied no mobile phones and applications were installed on the personal phones of participants. Areas where there was an existing supply of computers, as well as a high number of women lacking basic literacy skills, were identified and integrated into the project. Applications were installed on available computers. Teachers were able to download modules via the CNRE server.

Efforts have been made to use existing IT equipment and, where necessary, to supplement this with technology that is adapted to regional constraints and logistics, while also meeting certain financial constraints. Involving actors at all levels, including within communities, has been a key means of making this possible. Subsequent developments have included negotiations with the Ministry of Education to enter into partnership with mobile phone companies.

The PAJEF project inspired the Ministry of Education’s national literacy programme, which was launched in 2013. The programme, which targets both young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills, is based on the use of ICTs and aims to improve literacy rates in Senegal by 2025. PAJEF is now considered a model for improving national literacy while achieving economies of scale. Following the encouraging results in Senegal, UNESCO announced the extension of the project to Kenya and Nigeria, with the latter launching a similar literacy project in March 2014. Gambia has also expressed interest in replicating the project, in turn stimulating interest in yet more countries, including Pakistan and Namibia.

Sources

Contact details

Rokhaya Fall Diawara
Education specialist, Lead project officer
UNESCO Dakar
Tel: +221 33 8492305
Email: r.diawara (at) unesco.org
Website: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/dakar/home/

Saip Sy
Coordinator
UNESCO Dakar
Tel: +221 338492323
Email: s.sy (at) unesco.org
Website: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/dakar/home/