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Education Worldwide

AlfaSol Has Weaved a Unique Partner Network in Brazil

Despite a rapid economic growth and a primary net enrolment rate of 94 percent, Brazil features high rates of adult illiteracy. According to the Brazilian non-governmental organization Alfabetização Solidária, or AlfaSol, this country has an average of 13.6 percent of adult illiteracy. What is more, there are vast regional differences in literacy levels, ranging from an illiteracy rate of 7.7 percent in the south to 26.2 percent in the northeast with further disparities between urban and rural settings. Typically, illiteracy among adults is accompanied by exclusion, poverty, poor living, labor and health conditions.

Officially registered in 1997, AlfaSol started to implement literacy and inclusion programs for adults by concentrating on the poorest rural and urban communities. The Proyecto Grandes Centros Urbanos, for example, targets illiterates aged 15 years or older living in great urban centers neglected by public policies.

The programmes usually involve a range of modules to be taken by up to 25 participants. A core of didactic materials is available and can be adapted to local needs and diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The train-the-trainer project seems to be a central one to AlfaSol, as it enables community leaders to teach those literacy modules to other members of their own community. The adoption projects are noteworthy, too. The adopt-a-community project enables sponsoring partners to financially support a municipality in their literacy efforts, whereas the adopt-a-student project allows individuals to support adult literacy learners. Worth mentioning, too, is the nutrition project. It provides additional meals to students for the duration of the literacy program, thus contributing to a higher attendance rate.

Unique to AlfaSol is the kind of extensive network it has weaved since its inception. Local institutions of higher education such as universities might adapt teaching materials to suit local needs or take care of the literacy trainer education. Private and public companies, institutions and corporate foundations participate in adopting a community, in monitoring programs or publications. Many more local civic right organizations alongside with regional and federal public institutions cooperate with AlfaSol that initializes, coordinates, monitors and evaluates local projects.

Funding comes from national and municipal governments, the Federal Ministry of Education in particular. According to AlfaSol, private companies, institutions and individuals contribute significantly to AlfaSol's mission, too.

The current network includes more than 200 companies and government agencies as well as more than 300 higher education institutions. Since its inception, AlfaSol has reached 5.5 million youth and adults and trained more than 240,000 teachers in over 2,400 Brazilian communities. Following its success in Brazil, AlfaSol provides technical expertise to literacy partners in Guatemala, Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor. In 2003, the United Nations recognized AlfaSol as one the top ten literacy programs worldwide.