UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)
Country Profile: Nigeria
148,980,000 (2007, UN estimate)
|Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):|
English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Edo
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)|
|Programme Title||UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)|
|Implementing Organization||University Village Association (UNIVA)|
|Language of Instruction||Mainly Yoruba and some English.|
|Funding||Pro-Literacy USA; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH)|
Background and Context
Although Nigeria began its campaign against illiteracy during the colonial era, it was not until independence that literacy programmes gained increased momentum. In the 1950s, regional governments launched a free primary education programme to enable mass access to primary education, and in 1976, the central government introduced a compulsory, free Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme. The UPE programme ushered in an era of expanded growth for primary schools and education as a whole. Many teachers were trained through distance learning by the National Teachers Institute (NTI). In 1982, the government of Sheu Shagari launched a ten-year mass literacy campaign which included the establishment of state agencies whose main objective was to combat illiteracy in Nigeria. In 1996, the UNDP began to assist the literacy programmes with equipment, technical and financial resources. This enabled the government to transform the UPE into the Universal Basic Education scheme (UBE, 1999). Unlike the UPE, which endeavoured to promote access to primary education, the UBE sought to promote access to education for all, including adults, out-of-school youths, children and people living in special circumstances, such as nomads. During the period 1995-2004, these programmes raised the national literacy rate to 84% and 69% for youth and adults, respectively. Other efforts are currently underway to use the media, especially the radio, to reach the country’s 60 million and more illiterates.
However, a major weakness with these literacy campaigns is that they were not closely linked to adults' working life or their basic needs for economic and social development and empowerment. Rather than provide adults with functional literacy skills, which would have stimulated positive future perspectives, the programmes were reduced to basic literacy, which failed to provide them with knowledge for self-fulfilment and improved living standards. This approach was less attractive to adult learners and thus deterred some from participating in literacy training programmes. It was in this context that the University Village Association (UNIVA) initiated the UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP) to promote the development of literacy and livelihoods skills among adults.
The UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)
UFLP was initiated and formulated within the context of UNESCO's Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) and is being implemented by UNIVA, a registered NGO based at the University of Ibadan (Department of Adult Education). UNIVA begun as the Community Development and Health Project (CDLHP) in 1989 with support from the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, CDLHP was transformed to UNIVA in early 1995 and was officially registered as an NGO in 1996. UNIVA principally endeavours to complement government efforts in promoting literacy and development among rural and peri-urban communities through a) building bridges between the university and the community and between theory and practice in Adult Education; and b) promoting the co-operation of the university academic community and the village communities for development purposes.
Aims and Objectives
UFLP endeavours to:
- improve learners' functional literacy skills based on their livelihood or business activities,
- enhance the profitability/viability of learners' income-generating activities through improved functional literacy skills;
- provide learners with appropriate knowledge for self-fulfilment, poverty alleviation and improved living standards;
- enhance the social networking capacity of programme participants;
- promote community development;
- promote child attendance in school by raising parental awareness of the importance of education; and
- promote the grassroots communities' involvement in national social, economic community and political activities.
UFLP integrates participants' literacy needs into their existing income generation or livelihoods activities. This enables participants to appreciate the value and relevance of literacy skills training as an instrument of socio-economic development. In order to cater for the specific literacy and livelihood skills needs of all learners, UFLP provides training in diverse thematic areas including:
- Business: training in financial transactions with banks and other commercial entities, business communication, best customer care practices, record keeping, anti-corruption measures and micro-credit management.
- ICTs: the effective use of ICTs (fixed and mobile telephones, text messaging (SMS), internet and e-mail) to enhance business profitability and viability. More training time was devoted to text messaging because it is the cheapest means of communication. Most importantly, it was observed that, despite their keen interest in using this method for business communication purposes, learners with limited writing skills found it difficult to use their cell-phones for text messaging.
- Basic functional literacy skills: reading, writing, numeracy and basic English.
- Health: HIV and AIDS prevention, basic hygiene and nutrition (e.g. female caterers lean how to prepare, preserve and serve food healthily and hygienically).
- Civic education: peace-building, democracy and good governance.
This integrated approach was born out of the realisation that efforts to promote rural development and poverty eradication were being undermined by illiteracy and the lack of adult literacy programmes linked to livelihoods projects.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
Recruitment and Training of Trainers
With support from Pro-Literacy World-Wide, UNIVA recruited project supervisors and facilitators, particularly school teachers, and trained them in adult education teaching methodologies, adult literacy class management and the effective use of ICTs for business purposes.
Recruitment of Learners
Needs assessment surveys and advocacy campaigns were used to select two community-based business groups, the Gbekuba Women’s Group and the National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), to participate in UFLP. In the same way, a community-based recruitment process relying on the voluntary support of local leaders was used to mobilise individuals to participate in the programme. The involvement of community leaders had the added advantage of attracting those people whose involvement was considered most likely to bring about community improvement.
Today, members of these groups are engaged in a variety of small-scale business projects for the purposes of generating income. Gbekuba Women’s Group members mostly engage in trading goods, catering, designing and creating clothing, dying cloth and making pomades. Most members of NATA are drivers and motor mechanics who have completed, at most, basic primary education and therefore face great challenges in the evolving and competitive world of business. Given that their lack of functional literacy skills affects the viability of their businesses, it was therefore imperative to encourage members of these two organizations to participate in UFLP.
Training Approaches and Methodologies
Programme participants receive six months of functional literacy training during which they attend two-hour classes three times a week. In total, they receive 72 lessons over the six-month period.
UFLP employs a variety of innovative, motivational and practically relevant training methods in order to attract and retain learners, including:
- learner-generated teaching aids;
- local newspapers;
- community-based drop-in centres which are used for multiple purposes such as income generation activities and social and business dialogues, group discussions and practical activities.
The use of everyday sources of information is intended to further consolidate the learners’ literacy skills and afford them opportunities to practice newly acquired skills. Furthermore, classes simulate demanding situations such as how to respond to customers who request a receipt. Learner-centred approaches to literacy training like this one motivate learners to participate confidently and actively in programme activities.
At the end of the training course, all learners are awarded certificates at public graduation ceremonies which are witnessed by and celebrated together with other members of the community, government officials and the media. Public participation at the graduation ceremonies validates and enhances the value of the programme in the public sphere.
Although all programme participants are awarded certificates regardless of their performance, the certificates are graded as follows: A for a pass and B to indicate that remedial training is required. It is critical that all participants receive a certificate as this motivates them to participate in advanced training. Most importantly of all, it also ensures that learners who under-perform are not 'publicly' humiliated.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Impact and Achievements
Despite its meagre resources, UNIVA has succeeded in empowering many rural and peri-urban people through work-related literacy skills training. In the ten years since its inception, UNIVA has trained over 5, 000 learners in functional literacy skills. These beneficiaries have been empowered to use these skills to improve their living standards, as well as the viability of their businesses and income generating activities.
In September 1999, UNIVA received public acknowledgement for its contribution to poverty alleviation and literacy development in Nigeria when it was commended by the Director-General of UNESCO on International Literacy Day.
The following testimonies from programme participants amply demonstrate UNIVA's success in promoting literacy and livelihood development:
"I came to the class with no English, but I am leaving with not only English, but the ability to talk to my customers through what they call text messages. I did it right in the class, reminding one of my customers to come and pick up his car after I had finished servicing it. In the past I would drive down town, using the time I would have used for other customers. I now realise that whenever there is no sufficient credit in my phone, I can send a text" (Adegoke Abiodun, mechanic).
"I am a food seller but as a result of my participation in UFLP, I can write a receipt for my customers and fill in savings forms in the bank. But I cannot write long letters and send text messages. I need help in these areas" (Mary Johnson).
"What I missed for years I gained in six months ... the ability to write my name correctly and save my money in the bank without any intermediary, as well as helping my children in their education. I thank God that I achieved this through UNIVA … But I need advanced English to speak and join politics. Again that I can use my phone to send text messages I will never forget the change you have brought to my life” (Akiibu Olalere).
"I was at the local government adult literacy centre, nothing was achieved because it was just “a b c d e” without practical application. But here we learn about family, HIV/AIDS, home economics, and pomade-making. In addition, we were given loans to set up small businesses. Now I realise more money to support my husband in the house and buy little things for my children. I am a better person now because I participated in the literacy programme of UNIVA. I will call on others to come as we still have many people that cannot read and write in the village" ( Alice Ojo).
Notwithstanding its strength and successes over the years, UNIVA faces a number of challenges, in particular the withdrawal of participants from the programme due to time constraints. Furthermore, UNIVA has been unable to conduct a baseline study of what works and what does not; what livelihood activities most people are engaged in; and what they wish to learn in order to enhance their livelihoods.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
The following key lessons emerged from programme activities:
- There is need for curriculum reform at all levels of learning, as well as customised literacy materials to enhance the learning process.
- For adult literacy and skills training programmes to be effective, the learning process should be driven by the learners’ needs, current livelihood activities and general preferences. Accordingly, learners should be actively involved in the development and implementation of literacy programmes.
- Functional literacy skills training is central to socio-economic development.
- The success of literacy and livelihoods skills training programmes depends on the active involvement of various stakeholders, including academics, learners, the government, NGOs, and civil society.
The programme has helped to improve the socio-economic status and living standards of the participants. This serves to underscore UNIVA’s conviction that the promotion of literacy is a crucial instrument for social empowerment, poverty alleviation and development, particularly when it involves the participation of the entire community and receives support from technical institutions. Such provisions are particularly effective for women, who are generally more inclined to spread the benefits of literacy widely.
- Aderinoye R. 2007. Annual Report of Activities to Pro-Literacy World-Wide, New York
- Aderinoye R. 2008. Literacy and Communication Technologies: Distance Education Strategies for Literacy Delivery, in: International Review of Education, Springer.
- Kalman, Judith. 2005. Discovering Literacy, UNESCO, Hamburg
- The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports, http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/countryreports/nigeria/rapport_3_1.html
- UNESCO 2003, LIFE, UNESCO Paris
- Saint, William. 2005. Speech delivered by the Deputy Director General of UNESCO
Department of Adult Education
University of Ibadan, Nigeria
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