East African Book Development Association

Enhancing Literacy for Poverty Eradication


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The World Bank estimates East Africa’s (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) combined GDP to be a mere US $ 24 billion, with more than 40% of the population living below the poverty line i.e. on less than 1 US $ a day. In Kenya, for example, it is estimated that this lot is close to 15m people, an alarming 45% of the total population. The need to hasten economic development as a way of reducing poverty has therefore become dire.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers of the three governments of East Africa identify education as the pivotal strategy for building manpower to spur economic growth. The objective of educational development is to raise literacy levels beyond the current average of 60%.  Consequently, in the mid-90s, the three countries adopted and have been implementing the UNESCO promoted Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme which has resulted in increased school enrollment by over 200%.  The rise in the number of pupils and students has led to increased publication of textbooks. However, while the secondary objective of raising literacy levels seems to have been achieved, the primary one of developing skilled manpower is yet to create feasible impact.

This is because schooling under UPE emphasizes on textbook use for purposes of passing exams at the expense of nurturing in scholars an inherent reading culture through the use of multiple teaching and learning resources.  A strong reading culture enables citizens to continually search for knowledge necessary for tackling the causes and effects of poverty.

Additionally,  because publishers prefer to produce textbooks, whose purchase is funded by governments and therefore offers lucrative business, other areas such as academic and general books are under-published. The scarcity in reading material necessary for offering life-skills has resulted in schools and colleges within the region producing a large number of graduates that are not adequately knowledgeable or skilled to compete in the job market or create employment for themselves. In desperation, many turn to criminal activities consequently exacerbating poverty.

It is against this background that the East African Book Development Association has initiated a number of projects with the overall goal of improving the delivery of education and enhancing literacy in order to build skills towards poverty eradication. The underlying principle is that a strong reading culture, alongside formal classroom teaching, will ensure lifelong learning and produce better skilled manpower for creating wealth to grow the economy.

News Updates
01 May, 2011
EABDA launched three new programmes in April 2011.
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