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A high-level technical meeting on the Global Book Alliance (GBA), organized by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)’s Working Group on Books and Learning Materials (WGBLM) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) successfully developed a common draft action plan around five pillars for advocating and establishing innovative and effective mechanisms within countries for the production, acquisition, distribution, management and use of textbooks and other reading materials in national languages.
The five pillars of intervention are the following: 1) Advocacy, policy dialogue and reading promotion; 2) Training, research and book development; 3) Local languages; 4) Publishing partnerships; and 5) Bookselling and distribution. The meeting defined the objectives and key activities under each pillar, which ADEA and USAID will finalize and share with the participants to guide the implementation.
The workshop took place at the African Development Bank Group’s CCIA building in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from January 22 to 25, 2018. This four-day event brought together 80 participants from 22 African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia) as well as 12 international partners.
The opening ceremony was officiated by Fatoumata Coulibaly of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training of Côte d'Ivoire and had as the guest of honour Silue Nanzouan Patrick, representing the Minister. The Global Book Alliance was represented by Linda Hiebert, USAID Global Book Alliance Advisor, while the ADEA Secretariat was represented by Shem Bodo, the Acting Executive Secretary; Aliou Sow and Lily Nyariki, the focal points for the Working Group on Books and Learning Materials in Francophone and Anglophone countries, respectively.
Opening the meeting, Silue thanked ADEA and USAID for the initiative meant to give local languages a central role to play in the development of a reading culture among lower primary school children, who have not been given the opportunity to learn to read and write in languages they speak and understand best. In his welcome remarks, the Acting Executive Secretary reiterated the Association’s support to literacy, books and learning material initiatives in Africa, in line with ADEA’s new Strategic Plan 2018-2022. Commenting on innovative mechanisms and policies, Bodo said, “We all know the problems and the solutions related to the book chain. Now it is time to proceed with the implementation.”
Discussions revolved around core topics such as the promotion of reading materials in national and local languages; the challenges and opportunities related to book distribution, writing, publishing and selling; the Global Digital Library (GDL), digital publishing; the track and trace distribution initiative and methods of sustainable production of books. The Abidjan workshop also presented the opportunity for several African publishers to showcase books in national and local languages – according to their country of origin – thanks to an interesting book exhibition organized within the premises of the African Development Bank Group.
“A country can develop itself only through its languages. Reading materials produced in languages children use and understand (including braille and sign languages) are fundamental both at school and at home for the development of the child”, Aliou Sow, ADEA’s Working Group on Books and Learning Materials focal point and one of the main moderators of the workshop, announced while highlighting the importance of national languages in Africa’s development landscape.
At the closing ceremony, a draft action plan founded on five major pillars and involving all the book chain stakeholders was agreed upon to enable follow-up of the challenging work. The workshop provided a forum for deeper reflection and soul searching of what is best for children in Africa and it allowed great interactions and discussions among all the African book chain actors present, as never before.
About ADEA: The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a forum for policy dialogue, composed of all Ministers in charge of Education, Science and Technology in Africa. Established in 1988 at the instigation of the World Bank Group, it has evolved into a pan-African institution based within the African Development Bank Group (AfDB). ADEA’s work has expanded to focus more on the development of skills and competencies across all the education sub-sectors. It envisions a “high quality African education and training system that is geared towards the promotion of critical knowledge and skills for accelerated and sustainable development in Africa”.
About WGBLM: The ADEA’s Working Group on Books and Learning Materials (WGBLM) is committed to supporting processes conducive to formulating adequate National Book Policies that improve the provision of good quality educational materials, effective schooling, and literacy across sub-Saharan Africa. It strives to accomplish this by calling on governments, the private sector, development agencies, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to consider a holistic approach that includes substantial input from African partners to achieve viable book policies. The WGBLM is the implementing arm for this project.
About GBA: The Global Book Alliance is an international effort involving multiple stakeholders working to transform book development, procurement, distribution, and use to ensure that no child is without books. Its mission is to guarantee that children everywhere have the books and learning materials they need to learn to read and read to learn. The lack of reading materials is so severe that it cannot be solved without new and innovative solutions. New and innovative solutions are needed to solve the learning crisis, and the Global Book Alliance is taking the lead on identifying and implementing these solutions.