We offer Adult Literacy programme, that would focus on linking literacy to people’s livelihoods and needs. The programme incorporates a great deal of skill-specific training, in addition to literacy and numeracy, and attempts to link the two to show learners how literacy is important and can be used for personal development in their everyday lives.
The target group for the programme is anyone over the age of fifteen, who had missed the opportunity of formal education during childhood. A large range of people are targeted, including men and women, older people and youths, and specific groups of marginalized people such as prison inmates, those who are disabled and ethnic minorities.
A significant aspect of the programme is the availability of micro-loans, to support the development and continuation of income generating activities after graduation from the literacy programme.
Aims and Objectives
Jehovah Jireh Project identified the following objectives for the programme:
- reduce adult illiteracy rate;
- equip learners with essential life skills for personal and community development;
- build the capacity of the community for income generation and self-reliance;
- enable beneficiaries and their families to attain improved living conditions and a better quality of life;
- to provide equitable and adequate access to literacy education to youth and adult women and men;
- build a culture of lifelong learning among adult learners; and
- empower marginalised and vulnerable groups in society to participate fully as partners in development.
Recruitment and Training of Facilitators
Instructors teaching are unpaid volunteers. Instructors come from the districts and communities in which they teach, and are teaching in their mother tongue.
The median level of schooling for instructors is S2 (two years of secondary education completed), but this varies widely across regions. The programme design offers two weeks initial instructor training, followed by future follow-on and refresher training weeks. However, in practice, only 78 per cent complete initial training programmes, with roughly half of these going on to further training at a later date. Recently, the government has launched a new service for professional online teacher training, which seeks to fill the gap where educators have no opportunity to attend normal training courses.
Mobilisation of Participants
Mobilisation efforts vary across regions, but in general a relatively pro-active mobilisation strategy is employed. Officers from the Local Council begin the process by visiting villages and persuading their local governance body to hold a class. An instructor is then identified, and it becomes the role of the instructor to identify and mobilise the individual learners.
Participants have also been drawn to the classes under their own initiative, as they seek to improve their personal capacities for a variety of reasons.
Training-Learning Methods and Approaches
The basic principle of the Adult Literacy programme is that it should relate directly to the lifestyles and the needs of the people. Instructors are encouraged to use a hands-on, flexible approach that will enable them to work literacy targets into people’s everyday issues, and to provide the relevance that will lead to meaningful capacity building.
However, resource limitations are a major restriction in the teaching-learning approaches used. Local Councils do not have the funds to provide instructors with a wide range of materials, and participants are often too poor to contribute materials such as ingredients to cooking classes for example, so most classes are based on a more traditional textbook-centred method of learning.
An important aspect therefore is the way in which the textbooks have been designed to incorporate the real issues and situations being experienced by participants. To demonstrate the relevance of the texts, some instructors reported very intense reactions from some learners who did not recognise how widespread the issues were, and thought that the text was making a very personal reference to their own situation.
A key aspect of the programme is the development of Literacy Class Committees, in which the class participants meet as a group to discuss personal and committee based issues. These sessions provide an opportunity for participants to apply their new knowledge and skills, and to gain confidence in public speaking and leadership in an unthreatening environment.
One of the key challenges of the Adult Literacy programme remains in mobilising participants. Many factors prevent people from coming to the classes; the most significant barrier is money. Although classes should be free of charge, many of the target group cannot afford to neglect their subsistence activities to travel to and attend classes. Furthermore, many fear that fees will be introduced to the programme, as they have been in similar programmes that preceded Adult Literacy programme. In fact, learners reported having can not pay for basic materials.
For others, fear of embarrassment is a barrier to class participation. Many people are worried that their participation in FAL classes will assert their status as an illiterate and inferior member of the community. Some refer negatively to Adult Literacy programme participants as fala, which by unfortunate coincidence is Swahili slang for stupid or idiot. Fear of embarrassment is a particular barrier for older members of the community, and for males, who consider that the stigma of being a Adult Literacy programme participant far outweighs any potential benefits.
Due to the participation barriers facing illiterate people, many of the Adult Literacy programme class participants are actually partly literate people, looking for further education. These people have experienced formal education and understand its benefits, and they come to the Adult Literacy programme seeking the skills development aspect offered through the notion of functional literacy. The failure to target to specific intended audience is therefore one of the programmes greatest challenges. The Ministry estimates that only 30 per cent of those enrolling on the programme are actually illiterates, whilst the rest have completed primary school education to at least grade 3 and come to the programme for the functional skills. Similarly, most participants do not come from the poorest and most deprived parts of society, who do not have the time or resources to attend classes, which they do not understand the value of.
Budgetary restrictions are perhaps the most important challenge of the programme. Due to resource limitations, over two thirds of Adult Literacy programme classes do not have a specific venue and are taught outside, and learning materials are severely limited; the desired interactive approach of Adult Literacy programme is hindered by the availability of diverse teaching materials, so the teaching is normally very textbook-orientated. Furthermore, financial limitations are a great burden on the quality of instruction; instructors do not receive any payment or incentives for their work, nor do most of them receive adequate training. The result is that there is a great turnover of instructors, and that these instructors are often unprepared, unmotivated or not regularly attending. This is an outcome which severely hinders the constructiveness of the learning environment and impairs the efficiency of the programme.
The low availability of materials also has a negative impact on the Adult Literacy programme graduates. There is a distinct lack of post literacy reading materials in local languages, and no provision for the further education which many graduates of the programme desire.
The Adult Literacy programme is a well-established government initiative, with a strong decentralised organisational infrastructure which should support sustainability. However, the biggest threat to sustainability remains in the difficulties experienced in the retention of trained and motivated staff.