The Solidarity Literacy project supported São Tomé and Príncipe's efforts to reduce illiteracy and expand educational opportunities for youth and adults, helping to formulate public policies and programs for initial literacy, and to develop instructional materials appropriate to the needs and to the local context. The initiative was based on the successful experience of the NGO AlfaSol in Brazil (where 5.6 million students have been served since 1997), now recognized internationally (in particular by UNESCO).
In 2001, about 30% of the inhabitants of São Tomé and Príncipe did not know how to read and write. Despite the negative individual and collective repercussions of illiteracy (particularly in terms of social, economic and political exclusion), the country did not have an official policy and a public offering of education for young people and adults (individuals of the same age or more than 15 years).
The Solidarity Literacy project was implemented between 2001 and 2011 in São Tomé and Príncipe, starting from an initial demand from the Ministry of Education of São Tomé and Príncipe, with the objective of promoting the education of young people and adults. Through the reduction of illiteracy rates and the increase in global schooling, the aim was ultimately to contribute to the expansion of the personal autonomy of the young and adult population, by integrating mathematical skills and reading and writing from Portuguese to everyday life people and communities.
An initial diagnosis of the educational context of the young and adult population was conducted by the technical teams Santana and AlfaSol, based on official indicators, survey of pre-existing actions and analysis of the socioeconomic and cultural environment of the localities. Based on this diagnosis, the technical teams prepared an initial work proposal highlighting themes and priority actions for the construction of the process of continuous schooling of young people and adults.
Held in close cooperation between AlfaSol and the São Francisco Technical Coordination, the project was articulated around the following main areas of activity:
- support for the formulation of public policies, legislation, pilot projects and programs for initial literacy and youth and adult education;
- selection and initial and ongoing training of Sant'Emencian coordinators and literacy teachers;
- Identification in Brazil of specialists from higher education institutions, research centers and NGOs, to prepare an initial proposal for a training process and to act as trainers;
- mobilization and enrollment of literacy students throughout São Tomé and Príncipe;
- improvement of the knowledge of the management team of the local programs, covering on-site training and technical internships in Brazil;
- seminars for the exchange of experiences and discussions on educational policy and the expansion of educational opportunities for young people and adults;
- support for the development of courses and didactic materials appropriate to the reality of the country;
- training in the methodology of articulation of partnerships and fundraising, mobilization of society, and monitoring and evaluation of educational processes.
Between 2001 and 2011, the project trained 110 teachers and served more than 21,000 illiterate or under-educated young people and adults, and contributed to the reduction of the illiteracy rate in the country (now estimated at 9%). On average, 60% of those attending the initial literacy course continue their schooling process enrolled in public schools in the country, especially the younger ones. In order to ensure the continuity of long-term actions, the project supported the São Toméan government in the creation of a specific body within the Ministry of Education: the Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education and the Education of Youth and Adults.
In addition to São Tomé and Príncipe, the Solidarity Literacy project has already been replicated in other Portuguese-speaking countries (Cape Verde, Mozambique and Timor-Leste), as well as in a Spanish-speaking country (Guatemala).
Supported by: Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC)
Implementation agency: AlfaSol
Maristela Miranda Barbara,