The municipalities of Benin are motivated

Article, 04.09.2014

Blandine Codija Agossou is monitoring the implementation of the programme to support the management of the decentralised literacy programme in Benin on behalf of the SDC. The project began in 2014. It aims to give the three departments in the north of the country autonomy in their management of adult literacy programmes.

Blandine Codija Agossou during a working meeting on local politicians' responsibilities in the implementation of literacy programmes
Blandine Codija Agossou during a working meeting on local politicians' responsibilities in the implementation of literacy programmes between members of the literacy ministry and three municipalities of the department of Atacora in July 2014. © SDC

The majority of Benin's municipalities are lacking in knowledge of how to teach adults to read. They are also short of funds. They have, however, been responsible for this task since the country's decentralisation began in 2002.

It is for this reason that the SDC launched a support programme focused on the municipalities in January 2014. The aim is for them to move beyond reliance on international cooperation in this field. The programme for the support of decentralised management of literacy in Benin (PAGEDA), which is planned for a 12-year period, is currently in the test phase in the north of the country in the departments of Borgou, Atacora and Alibori. Blandine Codija Agossou is the SDC's programme officer in Benin. She explains what has been set up in partnership with the municipalities concerned since the beginning of the year.

The installation of signs translated into local languages helps to develop a literate environment in northern Benin. © SDC

With the programme for the support of decentralised management of literacy in Benin (PAGEDA) the SDC wants to make the municipalities key players in adult literacy in northern Benin. What have you been doing to attain this objective since the beginning of 2014?
Currently, the SDC contracts directly with municipalities, inter-municipal organisations and socio-professional organisations with due regard for the roles defined in the policy document for literacy in Benin. In parallel, two studies have been commissioned: the first aims to understand why the number of women participating in literacy courses has stagnated when they are more affected by illiteracy. The aim of this study is to define strategies to remedy the situation. The second study aims to collate the most successful experiences of literacy management since the beginning of decentralisation in Benin. The objective here is to transpose good practice. We are in a test phase that will last until June 2015. We will develop a new plan of action on the basis of the results gathered.

How are the municipalities that you are supporting getting involved in adult literacy?
For the time being, the municipalities of Borgou, Atacora and Alibori do not have the means to fulfil their role. For example, our partner NGOs' teachers are only trained thanks to Swiss funding. Nevertheless, the municipalities are motivated. Sometimes we get the impression that adult literacy is not their priority, but that's mainly due to a lack of skills and resources. In the departments mentioned, local councils participated in the development of PAGEDA with the SDC and are taking part in working meetings throughout its implementation. They are involved in every area of discussion and help raise awareness of the advantages of literacy among the adult population.

The project also aims to promote written culture within the municipalities. What does that really mean?
The discussions with the municipalities since January 2014 have allowed us to remind them of the importance of promoting written media and access to books among newly literate people, particularly through village libraries and reading clubs. Local councils are also encouraged to display the minutes of their municipal meetings in the languages of their region, and to get their press releases translated. NGOs have also installed signs to raise awareness and provide information in local languages. The presence of this written culture enables newly literate people to continue reading.

The SDC currently supports 608 adult literacy centres in northern Benin. What is your role in this?
I make sure that our five partners respect the action plan laid out by the SDC in the context of PAGEDA. I develop credit proposals and work plans with the partners, then set up and monitor their implementation and the respect of contractual provisions. Two of our four partner NGOs offer literacy classes; the other two carry out advocacy work with different authorities so that they allocate more funds for adult literacy. Our fifth partner is the ministry in charge of literacy. My role is also to monitor the operation of the PAGEDA steering committee, which is chaired by the ministry. This committee ensures that national policies are respected in the classes offered in the literacy centres supported by the SDC. It also ensures the synergy of the partners as they carry out the work plans. Additionally, I carry out field visits to the centres funded by the SDC.