2006 UNESCO Literacy Prize winners announcedLiteracy projects in Cuba, Morocco, Pakistan, Rajastan (India) and Turkey are the winners of the five UNESCO Literacy prizes* this year. The laureates were proclaimed by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an international jury. A project in China was also awarded an Honourable Mention.
The UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Prize is awarded to the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) of Pakistan, for its National Literacy Programme which aims to increase the literacy ratio by the year 2015 to meet the Education for All goals. It provides literacy classes to adults and to out-of-school children, collects data through door-to-door surveys, as well as recruiting village volunteers and schoolteachers to ensure wide community participation in the enrolment of children in school. It has formed and trained a team of social organizers to take charge of enrolment and drop-out prevention, ensuring their capacity building to enable them to take full responsibility of the programme in the future. Quality education is provided thanks to rigorous teacher training and intensive monitoring of literacy and learning achievements. A flexible curriculum has been designed for the programme to meet the literacy and numeracy needs of all learners, including men, in diversified geographical, economic and employment situations.
One of the two UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prizes goes to the Mother Child Education Foundation (Turkey) for its contribution not only to literacy but to increasing women’s self-confidence, independence and participation in decision-making processes. It has also contributed to raising women’s political awareness and status within the family as well as improving their ability to support their children’s education and development. The Foundation has carried out a comprehensive assessment of current literacy methodology and developed strategies to design a programme mainly targeting underprivileged girls and women. It also developed a wide range of educational material for its work which also benefits a number of male participants, particularly Turkish army conscripts. A Women’s Support Component focusing on women’s rights, health and hygiene, communication and child development is also part of the programme.
The other UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize is awarded to the Youth and Adult Literacy and Education Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute of the Republic of Cuba (IPLAC) for its work “to advance individual and social potential through innovative teaching methods with successful outcome in more than 15 countries, notably Ecuador and Venezuela. Its programme has been adapted to, and in some times replicated in, different parts of the world, and in a variety of social, cultural and ethnic contexts. The reward also recognizes work carried out in designing a complex Evaluation Model of variables, indicators and instruments to monitor and assess the impact of these literacy programmes on the newly literates and their human environment as well as measuring their individual development. Audiovisual and new information and communication technologies have been used to extend the reach and the efficiency of teaching material, including post-literacy material, developed for the programme. The post-literacy materials is designed to inculcate and develop reading comprehension and writing proficiency, enlarge the vocabulary of the new literates, facilitate reflection and debate and develop oral expression. The programme also broaches subjects related to the family, the environment, hygiene and health linked to the socio-cultural, economic and political context of the country in which it is implemented.
One of the two UNESCO Confucius Prizes for Literacy is attributed to the Ministry of National Education of the Kingdom of Morocco for its Non-formal Education Programme, an innovative national literacy initiative designed specifically for marginalized adolescents in rural areas. The programme’s objectives include ensuring the right to education for all, democratizing education and promoting good governance. It provides short training cycle to permit recent drop-out adolescents to return to school and identifies students facing a high risk of dropping out of school.
The other UNESCO Confucius Prizes for Literacy is awarded to the Directorate of Literacy and Continuing Education of Rajastan for its Useful Learning through Literacy and Continuing Education Programme in Rajasthan, the largest and poorest state in India, characterized by an arid climate, diversified and difficult terrain and a scattered rural population. The Directorate is rewarded for having raised literacy significantly among both men and women during the past decade; promoted gender equality and women’s empowerment through the development of an innovative programme – including 15-day educational camps for women covering subjects such as vaccination, sanitation, child care, family planning, environmental issues, and self-help. The programme also organizes vocational skills camps and supports self-help groups for newly literate women to promote income-generating activities, build self-confidence and support the sale of the women’s products as well as promoting credit and loan activities. This flexible programme also targets men. It features campaigns on health and vaccination, personal hygiene, safe drinking water, water conservation, and environmental issues. It has been extended to marginalized populations such as those serving prison sentences and run mobile literacy centres for migratory cattle breeders.
The Honourable Mention of the UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Prize is awarded to the Literacy Co-ordination Office of Yunnan Province (People’s Republic of China) for the Programme for the Realistic Reduction in the Number of Illiterate Women implemented in the mountainous border province of Yunnan, a poor province that is home to 25 ethnic minorities. The jury noted that the Co-ordination Office succeeded in reducing substantially the illiteracy rate among the young and middle-aged, especially women, in 127 counties and that it had contributed to increasing women’s standard of living and quality of life while reducing the number of poor and low-income families in Yunnan Province. The laureate not only organized extensive campaigns and mobilized resources for literacy work, it also compiled reading material in minority languages. It has been able to allocate subsistence allowances and food to the poorest families and to promote the use of subjects of particular interest to learners and combine learning with practical skills training such as legal knowledge, health care as well as recreational activities.
The UNESCO prizes are awarded annually in recognition of particularly effective contributions to the fight against illiteracy, one of UNESCO’s priorities. They call attention to the efforts of thousands of men and women who devote themselves year after year to advancing the cause of literacy for all.
* The US $ 20,000 UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Award was founded in 1979 thanks to the International Reading Association.
The two US $ 20,000 King Sejong Literacy Prizes were created in 1989 through the generosity of the government of the Republic of Korea.
The US $ 20,000 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy was established 2005 through the generosity of the Government of the People’s Republic of China which also invites the laureate to visit literacy programmes in China.