Conferences organised by BALID

BALID has been instrumental in setting up several conferences on the theme of literacy, in partnership with the British Council and other non-government organisations.


Common Goals, Shared PurposeConference report here.

Literacy – Unfashionable and Unfundable? (October 2011).

Strengthening Reading, Family Learning and the UPE Targets

24 & 25 January 2011

University of Cape Town, South Africa

Following the Family Learning conference held in Sierra Leone in 2009, BALID again collaborated with the British Council to host a further conference on Family Learning, in partnership on this occasion with PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa).

Some 80 participants shared their experience of family learning, drawing on their own experiences in South Africa, Cameroon and Brazil. Highlights of the conference were the stimulating interaction between the participants and the workshops in which family learning practitioners shared their insights and gained new skills.

Download the full report here.

Education For All: Strengthening UPE through Family Learning

12 & 13 February 2010: Sierra Leone

The conference followed on from an initial one day conference on Family Learning, organised by BALID in London in 2007. Key speakers at that conference presented their perspectives on Family Learning in the UK, Family Learning in Uganda and Family Learning from the point of view of funders.
The conference in Sierra Leone was the result of collaboration between BALID and several partners

the British Council, Sierra Leone
the African Family Learning Action Group
the Adult Education Department at the Ministry of Education, Sierra Leone
Freetown Teachers College
local NGO partners in Sierra Leone.

It brought together over 70 practitioners in family learning, from Sierra Leone and other countries and provided an exciting forum for showcasing how family learning approaches in Africa are enabling parents and other family members to develop their own skills and support the vital learning which takes place in schools.

Download the full report here.

BALID Spring Seminar 23 April 2009

University of London

Literacy, Marginalisation and Inequality: Dialogue towards programmes for equality

Helping ‘marginalised’ people to access the literacy practices and skills they need to improve their social and economic conditions has long been an aim of international organisations, including BALID. Following the production of working papers on these issues for DFID (, BALID’s Spring Seminar addressed the location of such literacy work in the wider debates about marginalisation and inequality.

The seminar anticipated two forthcoming activities in this field – the new Global Monitoring Report on ‘Marginalisation’ being produced by UNESCO Paris ( and the conference on ‘Literacy Inequalities’ at the University of East Anglia ( Participants in both projects attended the seminar, which was held at the University of London.

Key speakers

Bryan Maddox:
Bryan is a social anthropologist working on literacy, language and education in South Asian contexts. He has undertaken fieldwork in Nepal and Bangladesh, and has strong interests in inter-disciplinary work in education linking anthropology and economics. His current research interests are the links between literacy, human capabilities and wellbeing. Bryan is co-director of the Masters in Education and Development at the School of Development Studies and is an organiser of the UEA conference.

PowerPoint presentation – Bryan Maddox here

Juliet McCaffery:
Juliet has a long history of working in the field of literacy as a practitioner both in the UK, and as a consultant to overseas programmes in the Middle East and Africa and also the Republic of Ireland. Her book Developing Adult Literacy co-authored with Juliet Millican and Juliet Merrifield has recently been published by OXFAM. She has also had articles published on literacy and conflict resolution and a variety of teaching materials. She is currently researching the marginalisation of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK.

Juliet’s paper is in progress and will be shared on the BALID site as soon as it is available.

Participant feedback was very positive; people felt that there was an unmet need for seminars and forums to keep up to date with work in this field, sharing experience amongst practitioners, policy makers and researchers and hearing from leading exponents. Those attending should, we hope, be well placed to engage in the forthcoming debates about improving access to literacy and be better able to contribute both to practice and to policy. BALID seminars are held approximately every six months; check our website regularly for forthcoming events.

Past Seminars: – Literacy practice from South Sudan and Cameroon

Saturday 15 November 2008

Details (pdf) available here


Family literacy in Africa

BALID one-day conference

A one-day conference on family literacy in Africa took place at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London on November 24th 2007. This event was hosted by BALID in association with Education Action.

The aim of the day was to examine how family literacy programmes can improve both primary education and adult literacy cost-effectively.

Three elements were included:

1) a review of relevant research on family literacy in the UK;

2) operational details of how a local NGO, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development and supported by international NGOs and agencies, can plan and deliver family literacy programmes;

3) discussion around the assessments of a programme’s value.


• Professor Greg Brooks, Sheffield University

• Patrick Kiirya, LABE (Literacy and Basic Education, Ugandan NGO)

Professor Greg Brooks holds a chair of education at the University of Sheffield and since 1992 has been research director of the Sheffield arm of NRDC, the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy. His research interests include family literacy, the initial teaching of reading and spelling, trends in educational attainment over time and the use of quantitative methods in educational research. Between 1967 and 1972 he taught at Kenyatta College, Nairobi.

In 1989 Patrick Kiirya founded LABE, the Ugandan Literacy and Basic Education NGO which in 2002 received the Noma literacy prize from Unesco. Its pioneering work on family literacy in Uganda is widely respected and has been supported from Comic Relief, Education Action International and DFID. Patrick is also Minister of Finance and Production for the Busoga Kingdom of Uganda, and a frequent speaker at international conferences on literacy.

This stimulating event provided an opportunity to review the development of family literacy and to discuss the evidence for the success of different models of family literacy in the UK and Uganda.

New directions in literacy and development

The BALID workshop, New Directions in Literacy and Development, signalled a number of changes in the direction of work in literacy and development.

The report from this workshop is available New Directions in Literacy and Development.