Sep 20, 2017

Success for UNPO and AVOCAN “Education Spells Freedom” Project


In March 2017, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Association of Volunteers Against Illiteracy* (Association des Volontaires pour la Lutte contre l’Analphabétisme, or AVOCAN) initiated a project entitled “Education Spells Freedom”. UNPO and the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation supported AVOCAN in providing courses to a group of children and women from the district of Tarhil in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The project ended in July 2017 and time has now come for both partners to assess the results of the initiative. 

In the district of Tarhil, as in many other underprivileged ones across Nouakchott and Mauritania, children often lack access to education. Teachers tend to not come to school, or not frequently enough for the children to learn how to read, count and write proficiently. As a result, analphabetism and ignorance are widespread, both among children and adults. Some children, mostly from the Haratin minority, are also heavily discriminated against as the government makes it difficult for them to obtain national ID cards, which in turn prevents them from being able to access education through normal channels. On top of this, too many of them are still victims of slavery.

UNPO and AVOCAN believe that helping Haratin women and children receive a good education is key to empowering them and enabling them to overcome this cycle of oppression. Hence, UNPO and AVOCAN had decided this year to renew their efforts to fight slavery and socioeconomic vulnerability through education, in the framework of their “Education Spells Freedom” project. This initiative was launched a year after AVOCAN and UNPO's successful collaboration on the "Read, Write and Smile!" project.

This project has allowed the construction of two classrooms, a permanent bathroom facility, the purchase of rugs and school supplies, as well as the payment of salaries to the teachers. The construction work started mid-March and lasted for about three weeks. Courses have started during the second week of April and ended on 31 July.

In total, 25 women and 47 children have benefited from it, attending classes for about four months. In addition to this, AVOCAN has decided to bring support to a group of middle and high school students, offering them extra support for some subjects such as math and French. Besides, 11 students benefited from those classes to prepare for their exams.

The students were assessed in the middle and at the end of the project. On the basis of these evaluations, AVOCAN found that the children have really improved. The majority has clearly benefited from the courses, leading to an increase of the general average grade from 9.3/20 to 9.72/20 for level A (the lowest) and from 10.32 to 11.25 for level B (the highest).

As for the women, the general average in their class went from 6.62/10 for the first test to 7.03/10 for the last. All of the women have obtained a grade superior to 4/10, the lowest limit defined by the teachers. This impressive result was hailed by the women and their teachers, especially given that the group of women started as beginners, as they did not know how to read and write at all at the beginning of the course.

UNPO and AVOCAN wish to once again thank all of the supporters of this project. Without you, these courses would not have taken place!

A brief analysis of the results of this project by AVOCAN is available here (in French).

* AVOCAN is an association working in the field of social development to the benefit of underprivileged and vulnerable citizens in Mauritania. It aims at raising awareness among the general public, businesses, institutions, humanitarian organisations and other opinion leaders about the necessity of supporting the youth in areas where they suffer from analphabetism and ignorance.