Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project (IILP)
Country Profile: Uganda
English and Swahili
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP|
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)|
|Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)|
|Programme Title||Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project (IILP)|
|Implementing Organization||Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association (URLCODA)|
|Language of Instruction||English and local languages (depending on the target group)|
|Funding||International Reading Association; contributions from members|
|Date of Inception||2004|
The Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project (IILP) was initiated in 2003 by the Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association (URLCODA), a community-based NGO which was formed in 2002 in response to the needs of the rural people in Arua district. In 2004, URLCODA was legally registered with the National NGO Board of Uganda and is also an affiliate member of the Reading Association of Uganda (RAU). Currently, URLCODA is implementing an intergenerational literacy programme in the Arua district of north-western Uganda.
URLCODA's vision is to promote the development of a literate, secure, healthy, gender-sensitive and peaceful society that fosters sustainable grassroots development. To this end, URLCODA’s primary aim is to use literacy to promote socio-economic development and transformation in rural areas by addressing core community problems and challenges such as:
- high levels of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment;
- a deterioration in the quality of education;
- limited access to healthcare services in rural areas and rural people's limited ability to promote and maintain their own healthcare systems;
- the psychosocial and economic effects of HIV and AIDS on rural communities;
- the plight of orphans and vulnerable children who are unable to continue with their education;
- environmental degradation and declining soil productivity; and
- food insecurity and malnutrition.
In order to empower rural communities and achieve these goals, it was necessary to foster literacy skills across all age-groups, while paying particular attention to socially disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as non-literate women and men, HIV-positive people, out-of-school youth, orphans, vulnerable children and primary school pupils with poor literacy skills. Hence, the Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project (IILP) was conceived for the key purpose of promoting intergenerational literacy skills and socio-economic development.
Background and Context
In recent years, the government of Uganda has made concerted attempts to reduce the levels of illiteracy among its population through Universal Primary Education (UPE) for children and Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) for adults and out-of-school youth. However, the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of these programmes has been undermined by a lack of adequate resources, an acute shortage of trained manpower, a severe lack of educational and other instructional materials, a shortage of learning spaces and insufficient motivation for teachers and literacy facilitators due to poor working conditions. As a result, many needy people have failed to benefit from the UPE and FAL programmes, and the situation remains particularly dire for disadvantaged rural communities whose access to educational amenities such as libraries, proper educational infrastructure (buildings) and teachers continues to be limited. The situation is further aggravated by the ongoing armed conflict in northern Uganda.
As a result, the rural areas that are home to 80% of Uganda’s population continue to suffer from high rates of illiteracy, poor health conditions and poverty. According to recent studies, 30 to 40% of Uganda's adult population is non-literate; the HIV infection rate stands at 6.2%; 30 to 38% of children living in rural areas drop out of school; and 35 to 38% of the population live below the poverty line.
The situation is even worse among the war-affected people of northern Uganda, including Arua district. A 2005 report on the socio-economic conditions in the district revealed that just 41% of those aged 6 to 24 eligible to attend school actually do so, while 3% are temporarily out of school, 28% have left school altogether and a further 28% have never attended school. Of the 135,000 children who had dropped out of school at the time of the study, 68% were girls and 32% were boys – a clear indication that girls’ educational opportunities continue to be more limited than boys’.
In addition, the study further revealed that the quality of education in Arua district, as in other rural districts, is adversely affected by a severe lack of resources and professional teachers, as well as high student-to-teacher ratios and large class sizes. As a result, most children graduate from the primary school level without having mastered basic literacy and numeracy skills, and many of them fail to proceed to secondary level. Similarly, the few adult literacy centres that exist in the rural areas face severe resource and manpower shortages, making the provision of efficient and effective literacy instruction extremely problematic. It was in response to these challenges and gaps in the rural education sector that IILP was conceived. IILP is currently the only literacy programme in the district and has attracted over 300 children and 500 adult learners. To date, the project has established a total of 15 intergenerational literacy learning centres in Arua district.
As noted above, URLCODA’s main objective is to foster literacy skills as a means of empowering rural communities and promoting socio-economic development and transformation. The underlying principle is therefore to promote literacy for sustainable local development. Hence, the IILP aims to:
- foster the development of literate, peaceful societies through intergenerational learning, lifelong learning and literacy skills development;
- empower rural families to engage in sustainable livelihood activities;
- foster the active participation of parents, pupils and local leaders in the development of the education system and schools in their communities,
- equip communities with the livelihood skills needed to improve agricultural productivity, generate income and overcome poverty,
- promote social empowerment, particularly that of women, in order to prevent domestic violence and to foster inclusive community participation in decision making, leadership and environmental conservation;
- provide mother-child health and nutritional education that equips mothers with the skills needed to improve both their own health and that of their children;
- promote community health education in order to prevent the spread of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and address the socio-economic and psychological consequences of poor health by establishing psychosocial support groups and income-generating activities for the infected and affected; and
- provide assistance to HIV and AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children, including girls, in the form of basic school materials that motivate them to remain in school and complete their education.
Approaches and Methodologies
The main focus of the project is to provide intergenerational literacy education that boosts people’s ability to respond to the challenges confronting their communities. The aim is to build the literacy skills of all people, irrespective of age or economic status, so that each member of society can make a meaningful contribution to the process of social transformation. To this end, the IILP employs a unique approach which integrates livelihoods and life skills training into literacy learning, focusing on:
- health education;
- skills training for income-generation activities and poverty eradication;
- agricultural training;
- environmental conservation; and
- the production of relevant and cost-effective homemade/locally made learning materials to support the learning process.
Formal literacy classes are conducted twice a week from 2 to 6 p.m. Each literacy centre has an average of 50 - 80 learners and 3 volunteer educators at any given time. Most of the volunteer educators are primary school teachers or medical personnel who are recruited and trained in adult education by URLCODA. The educators are encouraged to employ a variety of teaching methods in order to motivate and capture the attention of learners. Key methods include: lectures; focus group discussions and debates; role play and field exchange visits which allow learners to learn from each others' experiences. In addition, informal literacy campaigns are also conducted by means of public lectures in churches, trading centres and market places, as well as through literacy based health competitions or peace-building activities.
Innovative strategies are being employed to increase the number of volunteer educators. For example, current volunteers are now developing a concept known as Virtual Rural Community Healthcare Volunteers (VRCHV) to handle community health literacy week activities. This approach will require just one person to be based at the centre, while the others can be accessed using a variety of ICTs.
Furthermore, URLCODA is working to improve the outreach and effectiveness of IILP through close collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of community development. One such organization is the Uganda Programme for Human and Holistic Development (UPHOLD) that facilitates dialogue and consensus-building between families, communities, teachers and other stakeholders. Similarly, URLCODA has developed a good partnership with the local government, non-governmental organizations and a missionary hospital in Arua and works with them on the implementation of community health literacy week activities. Such partnerships have proved to be an efficient and cost-effective means of providing health services and literacy education to a large proportion of the rural population.
Project Impact and Challenges
Impact and Achievements
The following lists a number of the project’s achievements:
Around 800 intergenerational literacy learners (300 children and 500 adults) were mobilised in 15 learning centres located in four sub-counties in Arua district. Most adults (about 450) were illiterate when they first joined the programme. However, by the time it had finished, most had acquired basic competencies, i.e. they were able to read a few pages of texts written in the vernacular, understand directions, and read numbers and words written on sign posts and doors in hospitals and health units.
In February 2005, 800 intergenerational literacy learners demanded to sit an assessment test. 600 learners eventually took the test and 570 of them achieved the pass mark required by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development that oversees adult literacy provisions in Uganda.
80% of the women participating in IILP who claimed to have been unable to read their children’s end-of-term report cards were able to do so after completing the programme. At least 250 mothers have reported that they are now able to check their children’s homework. Furthermore, the goal of gender empowerment has been achieved, as demonstrated by the increasing number of female IILP participants taking an active role in community development activities, including politics, with at least 30 of the URLCODA programme’s female participants having won positions in recent Local Council I and II elections.
Teaching adults together with children (intergenerational learning) has empowered parents to act both as social mentors (childcare givers) and teachers as they formally transmit their wisdom to children and youth during IILP classes. This is having a positive impact on the behaviour and performance of children at school and in the communities, while at the same time giving them a more optimistic outlook on the future.
URLCODA literacy learners participated in a series of book writers’ workshops which resulted in the production of 600 copies of a book entitled: 'Buku 'Bani E'dozu Waraga Laza Onizuri', a pictorial reader for beginners. The book has been distributed to 15 learning centres in Arua district and is currently used as the principal resource book (see picture 1). The participation of learners' representatives in the production of the book was a motivational learning experience that also gave the communities a strong sense of project ownership, responsibility and control. The public and vibrant book launch furthermore inspired other learners to join the programme. It also attracted community and institutional support.
Encouraging collaborative linkages between the adult literacy programme and the formal school system has also encouraged local educational development cooperations. Teachers demonstrated their support for adult literacy by their active participation at the book launch.
URLCODA now provides guidance and counselling as well as uniforms and other scholastic materials to 664 HIV/AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in 12 primary schools and 1 vocational school. This has gone a long way towards boosting the morale of HIV-positive parents and vulnerable children’s guardians participating in URLCODA’s literacy project, and has also improved pupil retention in primary schools.
URLCODA has succeeded in communicating adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention messages to over 10,000 adolescents in four primary schools and one secondary school in one sub-county.
Through URLCODA’s literacy project, at least 50 HIV-positive people have come forward and a club known as the URLCODA HIV/AIDS Club has been formed to help them. This club now has a poultry project to generate income and help meet members’ nutritional needs.
In the last three years, the community health literacy week has enabled over 40,000 people to receive general health and HIV/AIDS education and over 2,000 people to come forward to take an HIV test. Those who did so attributed their decision to take the test to the free and open interaction that they had experienced during the literacy classes.
Despite the successes noted above, the effective implementation of this project is hampered by a number of challenges, which include:
limited funding, which is preventing the project from producing adequate learning materials or paying stipends to volunteer educators to compensate them for lost productive time. The lack of instructional materials, particularly books for home-based reading practice, impacts negatively on learners’ ability to master the literacy skills learned at the centres; and
URLCODA is yet to develop a systematic programme monitoring and evaluation mechanism. The project currently depends on internal assessments carried out by volunteer educators, and comments from participants in community health literacy week activities and the family sanitation and hygiene competition. However, this does not yield objective results which could further strengthen the project.
In the course of implementing this project, it has become clear that local people are self-motivated to learn but lack access to education or reading materials. Given this high level of motivation, it has also been realised that all that is needed to mobilise many learners is a little investment and an awareness campaign. However, IILP still lacks the capital needed to implement the programme effectively.
The project has benefited greatly from positive linkages between communities, members of URLCODA and nearby primary schools, as evidenced by the high turnout of primary school teachers and members of the local communities during the book launch.
The spirit of voluntarism can help rural communities to access services that would otherwise have been unavailable to them. This is something that needs to be promoted, particularly in the case of the young generation.
Meaningful partnerships and collaboration enable organizations with limited resources to carry out essential community-based activities that many other NGOs do not provide. Furthermore, effective partnerships prevent the duplication of efforts and therefore the wastage of limited resources.
Producing tangible results can transform negative attitudes towards voluntarism in community development programmes into positive ones. For instance, last year’s community health literacy week attracted 16 volunteer doctors compared to 3 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The health week combines literacy with issues of treatment and rational drug use by the rural communities.
In an attempt to address the challenges posed by a lack of adequate funding, URLCODA has established a grinding mill and poultry projects. The vision is to plough the income generated from these project into IILP in order to ensure its long-term sustainability.
Learners are also being encouraged and assisted to form loan and savings club, both to boost their livelihood skills and as a means of attracting and retaining more literacy learners. As membership grows, it is hoped that the members will contribute to the production of learning materials.
- Uganda: Mak Don Opens School for Oldies in Arua
- Uganda Rural Literacy & Community Development Association (URLCODA), IRA – Developing Countries Literacy Support Project, Final Report 2006-06-08 http://www.tualu.org/URLCODA/URLCODA-IRA%20REPORT%202006/URLCODA-IRA.pdf
- URLCODA: The 1st National Intergenerational Literacy Learners’ Conference http://www.renafrica.org/Docs/2009-con-concept-paper-2.pdf.
- Willy Ngaka. The Contribution of Literacy Activities to Natural Resources Management (NRM): Experiences from the Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association (URLCODA), The International Journal of Learning, Volume 12, Issue 4, http://ijl.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.30/prod.650.
- Willy Ngaka and Y. Eleru. Adult literacy programs and socio-economic transformation among the rural poor: Lessons from a local NGO in Arua district, Uganda.http://www.popline.org/docs/1728/312170.html.
P. O. Box 3069
Last update: 30 June 2011