Mr T. M. Sakya (1936–2022)

Mr T. M. Sakya (1936–2022)

Pioneering coordinator of UNESCO’s ‘Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All’ (APPEAL), has passed 27 February 2022, aged 86.

Until his retirement from UNESCO Bangkok in 1995, T. M. Sakya (1936–2022) designed, coordinated and implemented programmes and projects to help UNESCO Member States to systematize their literacy and non-formal education programmes.

Under Mr Sakya's inspired leadership, a series of training modules, including the APPEAL Training Programme for Literacy Personnel (ATLP), and the APPEAL Training Materials for Continuing Education Personnel (ATLP-CE) were developed in a participatory and collaborative manner with national experts in the region, leading to the development of key concepts, guidelines and methodologies in developing and implementing context-specific and learner-oriented literacy and NFE programmes in Asia-Pacific. These modules were translated to national languages and used in training activities by many countries in the region in the 1990s. Most of the participating Asia-Pacific countries distinctly benefitted from these series in terms of strengthening both national organizational and institutional and individual capacities in the area of adult literacy. This was accomplished by establishing NFE Departments/Centers, devising national curricula for adult literacy and post-literacy programmes, and preparing literacy facilitators with appropriate facilitation skills for adult learners. His work is documented in Challenges of Education for All in Asia and the Pacific and the APPEAL Response (hereafter Challenges of Education), published in 1987. Mr. Sakya also proposed and introduced six types of continuing education programme in the ATLP-CE series: 1) Post‐Literacy Programmes; 2) Equivalency Programmes; 3) Quality of Life Improvement Programmes; 4) Income Generating Programmes; 5) Individual Interest Promotion Programmes and 6) Future‐Oriented Programmes. All of these programmes continue to be relevant and have influenced many Member States in their designing and implementing continuing education programme throughout the region.

Mr Sakya also conceptualized and introduced Community Learning Centers (CLC), which have proved to be building blocks for sustaining community literacy and lifelong programmes in the region. Notably, hundreds of thousands of CLCs are still operational in many regional countries, each one offering various lifelong learning opportunities for the local people, especially disadvantaged members of the population.

Mr Sakya returned to his home country and established the National Resource Center for Non-Formal Education (NRC-NFE), in 1992. He also served as a national EFA coordinator for Nepal and published many articles and studies about nonformal education and community learning centres. In Nepal, he has contributed to developing a national literacy curriculum, additional literacy policies and the expansion of CLCs throughout the country.

News of Mr Sakya’s passing has led many surviving colleagues to warmly recall his great impact on their own work, as well as the pleasure and profound importance of his collegial friendship: 

‘Sakya has been a legend in the world of literacy education and contributed significantly in systems development of it across the Asia-Pacific region’. – M. Ehsanur Rahman, Executive Director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission (Bangladesh) and Executive Council Member of ASPBAE

‘Mr Sakya had been my Guru, who gave me countless teachings and wisdom. I feel very sad with the vanity of human life’. – Shigeru Aoyagi, Director, UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok).

‘A great loss to the world literacy family’. – Namtip Aksornkool, former UNESCO colleague.

Revisiting the recommendations Mr Sakya made in his 1987 book Challenges of Education, we can yet be inspired in our work at UNESCO to enhance our advocacy for securing political commitments of government and international partners; for developing information systems and research to inform education policy and programmes; and to mobilise wider communities to support schools and a sustainable culture of learning everywhere.