Adult Literacy Programme

Country Profile: Mauritius

1,280,000

Official Languages

English

Other spoken languages

French, Mauritius Creole, Bhojpuri, Tamil, Urdu

Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day)

75% (2000-2007)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2009)

3.2

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15–24 years)

96% (2005-2008)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2008)

Total: 88%
Male: 90%
Female: 85%

Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleAdult Literacy Programme
Implementing OrganizationNational Women’s Council
Language of InstructionCreole
Programme PartnersMinistry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare; National Women’s Entrepreneur Council; Mauritius Qualification Authority; Human Resource Development Council; Mauritius Council of Social Service; Mauritius Institute of Education; and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources.
Annual Programme Costs1,600,000 MUR or Mauritian Rupees (approx. US$51,000)
annual cost per learner: 2,700 MUR (approx. US$87)
Date of Inception1986

Context and Background

With a GDP per capita of US$8,570 Mauritius is classed by the World Bank as an ‘upper middle income’ country. The rate of relative poverty is lower than the Sub-Saharan average, at 8.7%. Economically, too, Mauritius is performing better than most African countries. This is due to the relatively high standards of governance in the country and to a business-friendly environment characterised by the large number of export-orientated businesses in Mauritius and by its openness to direct foreign investment. Mauritian economic development is likely to continue in the future, as government reform seeks to enhance the country’s economic competitiveness. Part of this reform effort is to better integrate vulnerable and excluded members of the population by increasing social protection and providing them with opportunities to empower themselves (World Bank 2012).

Mauritian society is strong patriarchal. As a result, women are over-represented within the most vulnerable sections of the population. Despite recent improvements (see Boodhun and Ramsahye, 2012), inequalities in education, income, property and employment mean that women in Mauritius are severely affected by poverty. When the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was ratified in 1984, it marked the start of domestic reform to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in terms of education, health and material wellbeing. Progress has been made on gender equality in education. The 2010 gross enrollment rate in primary education was 100% for both boys and girls, while secondary school enrollment rates are now higher for girls than for boys: 72% compared to 65%. It is clear that women, in particular, have benefitted from free primary and secondary education. Women are also benefitting from better access to health services, thanks, in part, to awareness-raising campaigns to educate them about health issues. Mauritian women have gained greater representation in decision-making, particularly at judicial and administrative levels, but they remain heavily under-represented in politics, making up only around 17% of decision-makers in the national parliament and local government (OHCHR).

The National Women’s Council’s Adult Literacy Programme forms part of ongoing efforts to socially and economically empower women and to alleviate women’s poverty in Mauritius. Working under the directorate of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, the National Women’s Council (NWC) offers literacy, leadership, women’s rights and entrepreneurial training to women in 15 learning centres in rural and urban areas throughout Mauritius (OHCHR). The NWC works to promote greater gender equality in Mauritius and to change the role of women in Mauritian society.

Programme Overview

Launched in 1986, the Adult Literacy Programme aims to equip women who have little or no formal education with basic skills in reading, writing and numeracy. The underlying aim of the programme is to enhance the ability of women to cope with the challenges of their daily lives, thereby raising their self-esteem and promoting their independence. Some 550 women participate each year, at women’s learning centres across the island.

Aims and Objectives

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Participating women develop their reading, writing, numeracy and conversational skills in order to enrich their lives and to enhance their self-confidence, autonomy and ability to participate in society. The overarching purpose of the programme, to promote the social and economic empowerment of disadvantaged women, is reflected in the teaching methodology. Providers take a holistic approach but nevertheless seek to equip the women with tangible life skills through useful learning experiences. The literacy learning focuses on themes relevant to the women’s everyday lives, and, while the learners do attend formal lectures, they are also supported to learn cooperatively through class discussion and group work. Field trips are also included in the curriculum to encourage the women to observe and report back on their environment.

Women are taught practical conversational skills, learning to stay calm and be firm, and to listen carefully to the arguments of others before speaking. This helps them to engage in discussions with their husbands and to stand up for their rights when they are violated. The programme encourages women to contact trained counsellors, or relevant government institutions, when they face difficulties with men. Resolving conflict peacefully within the family, on terms of gender equality, is fundamental to the creation of a peaceful society in Mauritius, where crime often occurs within families.

The programme takes a practical approach to achieving women’s empowerment, equipping participants with literacy skills they can use in everyday life, for example when filling out postal forms, reading bus schedules or budgeting. This has the dual effect of increasing women’s self-esteem while also reducing their dependency on men.

Besides empowering women, the programme also aims to reduce poverty and promote healthy living. The women’s chances of finding employment are improved by equipping them with basic qualifications for jobs as laborers, maids, machine operators and cleaners. Improvements in health are supported through the dissemination of information about diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and diabetes.

Programme Content

The curriculum is developed by the programme officer who sits on the National Literacy Committee of the Mauritius Qualifications Authority. The programme officer organizes and participates in seminars attended by international speakers in order to keep abreast of approaches to adult literacy worldwide, applying new insights in a Mauritian context.

The curriculum is designed to reflect the needs of learners and the objectives of the programme. At the start, students fill out a form stating their existing knowledge and abilities, and an informal need-assessment paper is discussed with participants. Learners have the opportunity to talk about their needs and what they want from the programme. Their responses are used to develop the course curriculum, which the programme officer finalises, with the help of the adult literacy facilitators, who deliver the programme.The topics covered by the programme are selected for their relevance to everyday situations. This is important in supporting the women to become more autonomous and self-confident, and less dependent on men, in their daily lives.

The main topics include:

The course material is drafted by the facilitators in cooperation with the NWC’s adult literacy resource officer, who fully develops and finalises it. Learner needs are taken into consideration and are reflected in the development of new materials on topics such as identity, food, housing, health, clothing and employment.

The programme uses two main books for teaching purposes: Livret d’Ecriture: Dossier 1 and Cours d’Alphabétisation pour Adults Mauriciens. Facilitators also make use of brochures on subjects such as AIDS, healthy eating, diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and other health issues in order to raise awareness and stimulate discussion. Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are also used for teaching the curriculum, with facilitators trained to use ICTs as a tool in teaching.

Facilitators

Facilitators work either on a full-time or part-time basis with a monthly salary of 10,725 MUR (approximately US$345) or 6,800 MUR (approximately US$220) respectively. They are trained by either the Centre d’Information, de Formation, d’Orientation et de Dévelopment, the Mauritius Institute of Education or Caritas. The facilitators also receive training from the NWC’s adult literacy resource officer, who is able to pass on knowledge gained from seminars organized by the Mauritius Qualifications Authority and the Human Resource Development Council. Each facilitator works with, on average, 15 learners.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme is monitored and evaluated at meetings during which facilitators report on the issues they have encountered. The adult literacy resource officer assists with finding solutions to problems and has oversight of the work of the facilitators, assessing their punctuality and compliance, and analysing feedback on course delivery.

Assessment of Learners

Learners are assessed on an ongoing basis, ensuring that the curriculum is suitable to the level they have attained. These assessments aim to identify and correct any weaknesses in the teaching of the class. At the end of the programme, learners are asked whether or not the course met their aims. Most learners leave the programme able to write and read a shopping list, read bus destinations and schedules, write and read simple letters, make budgets, and read and pay their electricity and water bills. They report being very satisfied with the programme. From time to time, families of participating women are interviewed in order to evaluate the wider impact of the programme. The National Women’s Council holds a national event to mark International Literacy Day, which gives learners an opportunity to talk about how the programme has impacted on their lives.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The programme takes place in 40 locations across Mauritius, reaching around 550 women each year. Since its inception, it has helped 9,000 women to improve their basic literacy skills. As a result of the programme, participating women have learned to:

The programme has been replicated successfully throughout the country in a range of settings, including women’s centres, community centres and social welfare centres.

Challenges

A lack of funding is the central challenge to the continuing success of the programme. There are insufficient funds to conduct an external evaluation of the programme, making it difficult for the National Women’s Council to improve it. Nevertheless, the NWC has made some improvements, making more space available for classes, providing trainees with workbooks, delivering ongoing training for facilitators, and upgrading course materials.

Other challenges for the programme include the lack of both specialist pedagogical material and national training for instructors. There is also too little cooperation between programme partners, who rarely collaborate. In some classes, there are too many learners per teacher. In addition, there are practical challenges, such as limited space, poor ventilation and inadequate teaching equipment.

Lessons Learned

Training teachers in adult literacy is very important. Teaching adults to read and write requires quite a different approach to those traditionally used with children. One method that proved particularly successful on this programme was the use of illustrations.

The programme was significantly improved following an evaluation of its methodology. This shows that assessment is important in assuring a successful and long-running programme.

Sustainability

Funding from the Government of Mauritius has allowed the programme to run for a remarkable 27 years. Its longevity also owes much to the large numbers of local women who have been interested in participating in the programme, and to those people who have supported the work as facilitators. The training programme for facilitators, offered by the National Women’s Council and its partners, has proved an attractive option for those in search of work. Registration with the Mauritius Qualifications Authority in 2009 meant much greater recognition for the programme throughout the island, further helping ensure its long-term sustainability.

Sources

Contact

Louis S. Menelas
Programme Officer
2nd Floor, London Centre,
Remy Ollier Street
Port-Louis, Mauritius
Telephone: 217-3733
Fax: 217-3972
Email: nwc (at) mail.gov.mu

Last update: 26 February 2016