Adult literacy programme has been running without a policy since its inception in the 1980s. This exacerbated the challenges faced in the implementation of the programme as there were no clear guidelines to operationalise it.
The development of the policy started way back in 2003. It has indeed taken unnecessarily too long to complete the process. But the good news is that at the moment, it is in its completion phase, having been approved by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
Having a policy as a guiding tool is quite imperative as far as implementation of the programme is concerned. The major aim is to reduce the number of illiterate adults in the country by 300 000 annually. The National Statistical Office’s 2018 census report indicated that there are over 2 million illiterate adults. If the policy is effectively implemented, then by the end of five years, 1.5 million illiterates will be reached by the programme.
The policy will improve access, relevance and quality of adult learning in the country. It will give guidance on opening more literacy centres as well as recruitment of qualified instructors. It will also help in providing a linkage between adult literacy and skills and livelihoods.
With the policy in place, there is need to revise the curriculum as it is outdated and does not reflect the needs of learners. Also, there is need to bring more innovations to the programme to attract more men as currently over 90 percent of learners are women. Considerations should also be made to make the programme inclusive to attract people with disabilities. In line with this, special advocacy activities must be put in place to target men and adults with special needs.
There are high chances that the policy in question will help in promoting visibility and awareness of adult literacy programme. What is important is to mainstream adult literacy education in all development activities across all sectors. This can iron out misconceptions about adult literacy once publicity is done intensively.
Having a policy can also facilitate coordination and collaboration of different stakeholders who are involved in adult literacy education. It will also strengthen structures at all levels be it at community, district or national levels.
Both government, religious institutions, the civil society and development partners can work in partnership as guided by the policy. Additionally, it will improve supervision, monitoring and evaluation of the programme due to the clear guidelines and benchmarks.
Resource mobilisation can be improved with the policy direction. Currently there is inadequate distribution of teaching and learning materials. The recommended funding for promotion of adult literacy is 3 percent of the National Budget. However, the Malawian situation is pathetic as only 0.9 percent is pumped into the programme.
More must be done once the policy is finally out. The policy document must be disseminated to all stakeholders. Schools, colleges and all libraries must have this document for people to easily access it.
Also, there is need to hasten operationalisation of the policy. Whatever is contained in the document must be implemented the soonest possible. This can only be possible if implementation guidelines are put in place.
As much as possible, the policy document will have to be translated into different local languages to ensure that all the people understand and own it. It is a document that belongs to all citizens.
If taken seriously, the policy can change the face of adult literacy programme in the country in the next five years.