Pre-2011 conferences

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.