Empowering women in Chad through literacy and vocational training

Chad’s education sector faces many challenges to achieving SDG4, including a lack of qualified teachers, few technical and vocational training opportunities, disparities between rural and urban education opportunities in terms of access and quality, and a low literate population. UNESCO figures show that only 31% of men are literate and the situation is even worse among women, of whom only 14% can read and write.

In this context, the Government, through its National Development Plan (NDP 2017-2021) and Interim Plan for Education (PIET 2018-2020) – which is likely to be extended past 2020 – is prioritizing improving learners’ literacy skills, preparing populations for the job market, consolidating synergies between literacy and vocational training and supporting self-employed women and youth.

UNESCO, through its Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme, is supporting the country implement these two plans. Through advocacy and a series of interventions at the policy level since 2012, CapED has supported the integration of literacy and non-formal education as sectoral priorities. Their inclusion in key education sector policy and planning documents of the has led to increased funding and the development of tools and frameworks for a harmonized approach between ministries and partners in the delivery of non-formal education.

On the institutional level, CapED supported the creation of a convention to strengthen the synergies between the ministries in charge of literacy and vocational training, which is to be signed in 2021. The convention aims to reduce fragmentation and technical and administrative difficulties through better, more harmonized planning by the two ministries.

In parallel, CapED launched an innovative literacy-training programme, which laid the foundation for the development of non-formal education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the country and also led to increased cooperation between the ministries in charge of literacy and vocational training. The initiative involved assessing literacy and training needs and identifying promising income-generating activities (IGA) in the region, which included the processing of agricultural products, carpentry and poultry farming. Following this, UNESCO supported the Government develop pedagogical tools, comprising of professional standards, teaching guides and literacy and adult education textbooks, which outline the techniques needed to carry out each activity. The booklets were translated into five national languages, in order to follow a bilingual approach.

In 2018, CapED launched a pilot on one of the IGA modules providing women living in rural areas with literacy and vocational skills to help them increase their income and become financially independent. The piloted IGA was the harvesting and processing of shea fruit, locust beans, and cassava, all local to the area. The cultivation of these three plants are an important economic activity, having the potential to produce products from shea butter to tapioca to animal feed. “We had so many difficulties with our agricultural processing activities. UNESCO helped us overcome them, even us who didn’t go to school…the income from our small businesses has also improved. This has brought a great change to our lives,” said beneficiary Madeleine Ndoumta.

A group of trainers were instructed on how to use the pedagogical resources and led lesson in a local literacy center, benefiting 250 women who were taught literacy skills in Sara, the predominant local language. Solkem Bernadette who took part in the training noted that “this support has enabled us to read and write in our own language.”

With strengthened reading skills, the women turned to the training booklet which outlined how they could improve their processing techniques and output. Putting this knowledge into practice, the women then took part in practical workshops. Today, the women independently produce a range of quality products which they use themselves and sell on. “Thanks to the literacy booklet in the Sara language, I received training in techniques on processing local products.” Said beneficiary Clarisse Regonme. “I pay for my children’s schooling and care with the generated income,” she added.

The initiative does not stop here. Functioning in CapED’s capacity as a seed funding mechanism, UNESCO advocated for the pilot to be expanded based on its results and tried and tested pedagogical materials. This led to the Government to include a focus on literacy and non-formal education in a new 10 million USD project, funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), entitled the Emergency Project to Reinforce Education and Literacy in Chad. Of the funds, 1.4 million USD is being allocated to literacy and non-formal education and UNESCO has been selected by the Ministry of National Education to oversee the project.