The Steering Committee of the African Platform of Adult Education met in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia from February 22 to 24, 2010 to deliberate on a new orientation for the Platform following the conclusion of the CONFINTEA VI Conference which was held in Belém Para , Brazil in December 2009.
The Platform was created on March 28, 2008 with the aim of mobilizing African civil society to actively partake in policy advocacy on Adult Education and literacy specifically in preparation to the sixth CONFINTEA a level 2 UN conference held every 12 years to revisit progress in the field of education and life long learning.
Four regional networks working on Adult Education issues and with adult learners created the Platform mainly ANCEFA, FEMNET, PAALAE and PAMOJA. The members comprise the Steering Committee. Platform activities are coordinated by a small secretariat based in Mali.
The original mandate of the Platform was modest, focused on the regional and international CONFINTEA processes. Platform members resolved to advocate for high level government participation in the regional preparatory conference and in the UN Conference in order to raise the profile and commitment of Adult Education among governments and decision making institutions in Africa and the populace generally. The Platform also provided an alternative perspective of AE progress on the continent through a CSO shadow report they prepared which fed in the Regional Report for Africa prepared by UNESCO. The regional report formed the basis of putting together the Global Belém Framework of Action.
The Platform was also instrumental in popularizing the Adult Education agenda in different fora of social movements such as the World Social Forum, the Africa Social Forum and in diverse global campaigns such as the Campaign Against Poverty or the Global Movement of Education. Its collective initiatives ensured that African CSO were visible and their voices and those of learners were amplified at the Regional Confintea Preparatory Conference held in Nairobi towards the end of 2008; at the International Civil Society Forum (FISC) on Adult Education held before the start of Confintea VI; and during Confintea VI. This is a very different picture from the last Confintea conference held in 1997 in Hamburg where the presence and engagement of African CSOs and governments was insignificant.
Says Lalla El Oumrany, the current coordinator of the Platform, "We were able to achieve all the four main objectives set for ourselves which is an accomplishment in itself considering the circumstances in which the Platform came to be and the daunting task that lay ahead". Ms. Jennifer Chiwela, the Chairperson of ANCEFA, agrees with the assessment emphasizing that, "The Confintea process confirmed to us that the Platform is critical albeit the fact that our initial agenda has since evolved challenging us to revisit our raison d´être and our future orientation".
While members of the Steering Committee express great satisfaction with the achievements of the Platform they recognize that important reforms are due towards making the work of the Platform more relevant and strategic. Chief among the challenges is defining a clear identity for the Platform and its rootedness. In the past, the fact that the Platform was hosted by another organization created tensions at the operational level. Similarly, the acute dependency on (limited) donor funding has compromised its integrity and autonomy. It also led to the Platform to be conceived in transitory terms rather than in more strategic and enduring terms.
Members of the Platform envision a more robust role for the Platform to actualize the programme of the Belém Framework for Action as well as other international and regional commitments related to Adult Education, Life Long Learning and People´s empowerment. Specifically they want to see the Platform become a continental advocacy platform for Adult Education and Life Long Learning. Also, they see it spearheading knowledge development in the area of Adult Education, Life Long Learning in Africa. Moreover they want the Platform to synchronize members efforts (and those of other actors in Africa) in Adult Education and Life Long Learning.
The Steering Committee has succeeded to develop a strategy document to inform the new orientation for the Platform. The challenge is to interest those who see a link between Adult Education, Life Long Learning and people´s empowerment to support wholeheartedly the Platform in her new directions. Platform members understand that the momentum created by Confintea has to be vigorously pursued in Africa where the rates of illiterate adults, most of who are women, remains high.