Nouakchott — Mauritania marked National Illiteracy Prevention Day at the Ibn Abbas Institute in Nouakchott on Sunday (January 20th).
Minister of Islamic Affairs and Original Education Ahmed Ould Neini oversaw the ceremony to mark the day under the theme, "Literacy is the basis for sustainable development".
"The celebration is part of the efforts to tackle illiteracy and educate adults so that they can contribute to this country's development," the minister said.
"Illiteracy, which affects 38% of our society, is a major social and economic handicap which leads to marginalisation and poverty. The struggle against this phenomenon requires the co-ordination of efforts, on-going activity and the making available of all possible means, in accordance with international provisions," he noted.
During the day, experts gave a number of presentations about the illiteracy situation in Mauritania, and the socio-economic effects of efforts to tackle the phenomenon. They also addressed its relationship with employment, and the methodology and outcomes of the work done to wipe out illiteracy over the last two years.
"Illiteracy has been identified by the international community as a major obstacle to development and personal fulfilment", economist Djibril Cisse said.
"This phenomenon marginalises those who can't read and deprives them of the opportunities and benefits offered by the development of their country, in an international context of globalisation where inequality between men resides first and foremost in the mind before it translates into goods, services and capital," he added.
Cisse noted that Mauritania's 13 wilayas could be divided into four groups of literacy rates.
The first group had literacy rates of between 76% and 84%. This group included Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Tiris Zemmour, Nouakchott and Inchiri.
The second group had rates that are just above 65%. This group included the wilayas of Tagant, Adrar and Trarza.
Hodh El Charghi - the third group - had a literacy rate of just over 50% (53.6%).
The fourth group included wilayas with economies based on livestock-rearing or traditional agriculture, and where less than 50% of adults aged over 15 are literate. They included Assaba, Hodh El Gharbi, Brakna, Gorgol and Guidimagha.
In a bid to tackle poverty, the government in 2012 launched the Literacy for Employment Programme (PALAM).
The goal of the PALAM project is to "develop knowledge, know-how and interpersonal skills among the target groups, taking account of their learning needs and their local environment," the government said.