Kobina Asiedu

In 1962, the Institute of Adult Education of the University of Ghana opened its offices in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional capital. Since then, the centre has been engaged in running both formal and non-formal education programmes. The focus of this paper is on the integrated rural development programme undertaken by the Institute and sponsored by the Canadian Organisation for Development through Education (CODE) in the Upper East Region. The first phase of this programme was a two-year action research programme from September 1989 to August, 1991. The second phase officially lasted from 1992 to 1994. There were five components of this project: Literacy Teaching, Small-Scale Industry and Co-operative Group Promotion, Newspaper Production, Family Life Education, and Community Improvement to realise these objectives. Communities have now taken over the project organisation and administration. CODE continues to publish the community newspaper to sustain participants’ interest in the project. Kobina Asiedu is the Director of the Institute of Adult Education, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra.

University-based Adult Education: Practical Perspectives in Functional Literacy in Ghana

Objectives of the Project

Following from the results of the baseline studies, the following objectives were set for the integrated rural development project:

  1. To promote literacy to enable participants deal competently with their own issues
  2. To organise small-scale industrialists and farmers to improve upon the quality of their products and to raise capital
  3. To encourage communities to appreciate and undertake community improvement activities
  4. To publish a community newspaper to boost literacy in the area
  5. To draw attention of participants to better family life and improved human relations

The Institute in Action

To understand the people better, establish rapport with them and know their needs, the project team made up of the staff of the Institute of Adult Education with some leaders of the communities, conducted baseline studies among the people. This was done so that the right type of education and programmes were organised with the people.

After the baseline studies were conducted, the Institute moved into the field to work with the people to improve their living standards and conditions. This practical involvement of the Institute, a university department, in community development activities refutes the notion of a university as an institution set apart from real life. And as an extension department of the university, the Institute guarded against being sucked into the university tradition of internal teaching as a main function.

The first of the breakthrough strategies launched by the Institute was organisation of workshops, lectures and open forums. Early contacts were made with chiefs, local opinion leaders, leaders of women’s groups, youth associations and teachers in order to get close to the people and involve them in the selection of the right calibre of people for the programmes. These local institutions have been very instrumental in mobilising communities, whipping up enthusiasm in the project and giving heavy doses of support to the project team during the project period.

The first of the workshops was a weeklong leadership training programme for 40 leaders drawn from the four language zones in the project catchment area. This was from the 30th of September to 6th of October 1989.

With the training of efficient and effective local leadership, the project started on a good note. The leaders directed the course of the project in the right direction and motivated participants and sustained their interest in it.

A serious attempt was made to train an equal number of both sexes at this workshop so that equal attention could be paid to both men and women in the implementation of the programme.

Participants were taken through topics like leadership types, human communication, human relations, adult teaching and adult learning techniques. The integrated rural development project proposal was also discussed with leaders to let them know what the project was all about and the role the leaders and various communities were expected to play to realise the objectives of the programme. The project team attached great importance to this maiden workshop.

Participants shared experiences about work, life and leadership skills. They learnt skills of mobilisation, and techniques necessary for maintaining their groups for the success of the programme. With relevant leadership qualities and with clear understanding of the project proposal, the best of results were later to be achieved.

Series of workshops were later organised for the organisers of various component groups of the project. These workshops included those for literacy facilitators, randomly selected members of various groups, literacy material producers and small-scale industrialists. Series of lectures and discussions were also organised with the local people. Regular visits were paid to the groups whose leaders took part in the initial workshops.

Community members of project centres were brought together as a family to learn about the project, be aware of their needs, learn skills to work together, plan and execute strategies for the development of themselves and the improvement of the environment. Awareness was created towards these goals, and the project took off effectively.

Participants in the 40 literacy classes established under the project learnt that they could improve upon their way of life through hard work and adopt new ways of doing things. They discussed the social, economic and political constraints that impeded their progress.

The majority were happy that they could write their names and simple sentences. They could make meaning out of their lives because they understood the environment and the structures which govern the communities.

Some claimed their anxiety to know more about themselves and other people was aroused. They developed the desire to know and undertake many developmental activities.

A variety of motivational activities have been organised to sustain their interest in the classes. Some of these were debates. One of the popular topics was that “the breakdown of marriages is due to the attitude of women”. At the various centres, this was a debate between men and women. The debate was keenly contested and highly educative. In the long run, people discovered the main reasons of the breakdown of marriages. Both men and women were responsible.

Liberal education programmes drew even non-class members to the centres and made the classes popular. Other activities to break the boredom in class and keep the interest of learners alive were story telling and experience sharing sections, entertainment durbars, plays, literacy day celebrations and work on communal projects like town cleaning, market arrangements and farming.

Community Improvement

Community improvement here refers to attempts made to develop the environment and construct facilities to improve the conditions of people in the communities. Such attempts led to construction, maintenance of markets and growing of trees.

We discussed the homeostasis theory of motivation with them to explain that, for communities to enjoy the fullness of life, basic needs must be met. Some of the needs were identified as lack of facilities for educational and employment opportunities. Together, they set goals for the realisation of these needs. Once goals had been set, people were goaded into action to achieve these goals. They realised that the environment must be improved.

As a result many of them resolved to take part in communal activities to provide facilities for their use. They admitted that they had earlier on refused to take part in communal work because their expectation was that the national Government and the District Assemblies were to provide them with these facilities. Through the discussions in the literacy classes however, they realised that the Assemblies alone could not cope with local development. The people have to boldly take the challenge to develop local facilities. They therefore now actively participated in community improvement activities.

One major problem facing northern Ghana is environmental degradation. This is due to a number of factors including the burning of grasses for the purposes of hunting, grazing and farming. Trees are also cut indiscriminately for fuel wood. People were therefore organised to plant trees. Each class centre developed a demonstration woodlot and each earner planted at least one tree in the backyard.

Another area where the team met with success was in the mobilisation of communities for the construction of class structures and craft centres. One might ask why a university adult education department had to go into community mobilisation for constructional work.

This became necessary because in many of the northern communities, there were no convenient places for academic work, nor were there craft centres to accommodate our clientele. The local buildings do not have strong foundations nor are there large windows to allow ventilation into the rooms. These constructional project experiments then educated people on the need for strong foundations for their houses, windows to allow for ventilation, classrooms for learners and central craft centres for the many craftsmen and women who were scattered in the community.

As a result of the educational programmes, the team mobilised communities to construct the following structures:

Doninga  – class centres Logre  – craft and class centre Paga  – class and day care centre Nangodi  – class centre and meeting place Sandema  – class and craft centre Zaare  – class and craft centre

These centres have become the focal points for all community and adult education activities in their respective communities. The Zaare centre, for example, draws not less than 120 adults from the scattered communities for programmes. Of these, 90% are women. However, whenever there is a workshop or a one-day school for the community, many more participants are drawn in from a large catchment area. Participants learn to make raffia hats and baskets and participate in literacy classes at this centre.

One significant contribution, which all the centres made, was that they succeeded in attracting other agencies to the community. One decision, which brought in the Water Utilization Project of Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation, was that the groups decided to form co-operatives to maintain the boreholes in the area. The Project came to their aid. (It is boreholes which serve the majority of communities in northern Ghana).

The Primary Health Care (PHC) programme, the National Commission on Children, the 31st December Women’s Movement and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency were also all attracted to deliver their services to the people who were already well organised by the Institute. These well-supported centres have the potential of developing into powerful sources of strength for the communities. The Sandema Blacksmiths’ Workshop has for instance become the training centre for blacksmiths in the Builsa district. Leadership training has always been organised for the craftsmen at this centre.

As part of the community improvement activities, the team community leaders at all the centres regularly organised communal labour and clean-up campaigns. Compounds, markets and meeting places at all the project centres were cleaned at regular intervals.

Each group met on specific days not only to discuss their vocation, but also to do some practical work under the tutorship of master craftsmen and women, to improve their skills and train apprentices. They also organised functional literacy classes to learn to read and write more about their tools and materials. Apprentices were recruited for training. There was also a regular meeting of old and new members with community participants. The Institute's programme therefore seemed to be the social cement binding the various activities and economic groups and the community together.

The Zaare Weavers group, for instance, was made up mainly of women who were engaged in using raffia for weaving hats and mats. These are traditional crafts in the area and a few of the members were already very skilful in producing good designs. The objective of getting them together was to enable those who did not have the skill to learn it from the more experienced hands and to enable them work as a co-operative so that they could market whatever they produced better and more efficiently than they used to do. It was also to empower the group to organise credit facilities. These aims were achieved. The master craftsmen and women also learnt to improve on the quality of their crafts.

The Wiaga Calabash Decorators’ Group was headed by a professional teacher namely Melanie Akanchalabey. She claimed that the skill was a family gift and that only their lineage was naturally endowed with it. As adult educators, team members were convinced that other persons could be trained to acquire this skill. Melanie agreed after discussions with the team, to train non-family members in the craft. Since then calabash decoration has ceased to be a monopoly of the Akanchalabey family. It has been shown that others can master the trade when they are exposed to it.

Small-scale Agricultural Development Activities

One issue which kept on arising at workshops and which was identified in the baseline studies was poverty. Related to this emerged issues such as unemployment, high cost of living and famine. These resulted in rural-urban migration, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and petty theft. To reduce the high rate of these social evils, the team agreed with participants to revive or support some of the crafts and farming programmes, especially among the youth. This was one reason why the craft centres mentioned above were constructed.

The people of the Upper East Region are mainly farmers. However, they practise the traditional method of farming. All our groups were therefore organised to cultivate community farms, which were used as experimental farms. Members were exposed to modern methods of farming.

All those interviewed on the farm stated that they had learnt to group together more effectively in their farming endeavours. They could now engage in a common cause although some of them still strove to excel. They practised modern methods of farm management, effectively checking their farm expenditure against income. They learnt to plant in rows for easy farm management and harvesting practices. They learnt to avoid bush burning, which kills surface nutrients for crops. They learnt to make use of the dung of animals for manure since animals abound so much in the north. They were more able to plant and harvest on time as a result of lessons learnt at the one-day schools and literacy classes. They also learnt to preserve their produce to minimise post harvest losses.

Some other groups like the Gumyoko, Kuloko, Zaare, Pungu and Mirigu undertook the cultivation of communal farms.

The four women’s groups in the Vonania electoral area of the Kasena-Nankana district cultivated eight acres of rice and harvested 64 bags of paddy rice. In a series of workshops on farm management, they learnt all the stages of rice production from land acquisition through storage and marketing of the rice. They used the profit from the sale of rice to support a school building project. Many of them now undertake rice farming because of the immense benefits derived from the experiment.

Piggery and goat rearing were also started among the Gumyoko, Zaare, Mirigu and Kulogo groups. This was to help people keep animals under hygienic conditions. Programmes were also organised in conjunction with the nutrition division of the Ministry of Health on the need for the consumption of animal protein. (Animals are hardly killed for meat in the areas. They are mainly kept as signs of wealth and status symbols).

Craft Co-operatives

Craft centres were built to promote income-generating activities and to encourage the formation of co-operatives among craftsmen and women. The Department of Co-operatives, Rural and Cottage Industries and the Centre for National Culture were heavily involved in our work with the people in this field. The result of the Institute’s training programme and workshops created a general consciousness in the region for craft promotion. The Sandema Bullock Farmers, the Zaare Potters and Basket Weavers, the Sirigu Potters and the Wiaga Calabash Decorators were pulled together respectively, each forming a co-operative society. Each formed its own executive to help settle human relations problems, check political or official interference, order materials in bulk and assist in acquisition of land for their work. Group members are now able to produce enough for sale. The groups have registered with the Department of Co-operatives to derive the maximum benefits from this department.

Family Life Education

One-day schools and workshops were held to help participants who were largely illiterate to know how to take care of their meals and educate their children. A number of health and social workers were invited to facilitate the discussions at the schools. some of these resource persons were experts like Doctors A. Aquage, Takubu and Ganda from the Ministry of Health, Bolga, Mr. S. S. Saaka, the regional co-ordinator of ADRA, Miss Yahaya of the National Commission on Children, Mr. J. B. Ibrahim of the Department of Forestry and Mr. Adabuga of the National Commission on Culture. Collaboration with these people was very useful as we did not have the expertise ourselves to handle the topics effectively.

Maternal and child health, family care, the production of local weaning foods, preparation of a balanced diet for the family, family planning and six killer diseases were some of the topics discussed. Discussions on these took place at all the class centres with the resource persons mentioned above moving with the team. The discussions were patronised by learners whenever and wherever the team moved. The team effectively raised the general consciousness of people about common issues and about the value of unity and free interaction with members from other tribes in the area.

The groups were well organised, enjoyed entertainment, learnt together and fed better. Developmental tasks of adults such as accepting civic and social responsibility, living with a marriage partner, rearing children, undertaking economic activity to maintain some standard of living and helping children to become responsible and happy adults, were learnt and implemented.

Responses to the interview revealed that most of the points raised had gone down very well with them. Families are beginning to provide children with meat and eggs; pregnant women now eat eggs. Parents are intensifying the education of their children on teenage pregnancy, literacy and drug abuse. However, it was also evident that much has to be done in the area of family life education among people who still allow a great measure of taboos to control their lives.

Publication of Local Newspapers

The Integrated Rural Development Programme mounted by the Institute of Adult Education is basically educational. To support the project, a local newspaper, Kasem-Gurune Labaare, and two newsletters, Kasem Tola and Buli Wapala Gban, are published. The Kasem-Gurune Labaare is published to cover Kasena-Nankana, Bongo and Bolgatanga districts. This is because the concentration of the Institute’s projects lies in these districts. The Kasem Tola is published to cover Paga area, where there is a large concentration of farmers under the programme. The Buli Wapala Gban is published for the Builsa District, where Shepherd Schools exist.

Participants feel excited when their articles are published in the paper. They feel more excited to see their own pictures and read their own news and that about their neighbours. Though the papers come out at a slow and uneven pace, they are still useful in providing entertainment, information and education to the people.

Observations and Conclusion

Many issues have emerged from the discussions in this paper. And references have been made to the successful mobilisation of people for personal and community development activities by a university adult education organisation in Ghana. Strategies adopted by the various adult education organisations to achieve their aims have been shown.

The Institute of Adult Education identified illiteracy and community underdevelopment as two main problems in the Upper East Region. The Institute used a lot of motivational techniques to mobilise people for various development projects.

As much as possible use has been made of traditional and modern institutions to promote development. Youth associations, chieftaincies, and local groups were very useful in the Ghanaian experiment. The approach was very helpful, for these organisations could easily disseminate ideas. There were also collaborative efforts to involve modern developmental institutions like the Department of Rural and Cottage Industries, the Ministry of Health, the Centre for National Culture and District Assemblies. When resources were pooled together, much was achieved. There is much to gain from networking with organisations with similar orientation.

The use of local newspapers in community and literacy programmes was highly successful. It was very close to the people. From the experiment, it is noted that the use of rural newspapers is very useful in all community work and must be encouraged. Participants also felt very proud that their own efforts were able to put up class and craft centres and utilised them to the maximum.

The literacy classes made a lot of impact on the people. Some people thought literacy was a domain for selected people. But they realised that they could now all participate and see literacy opportunities and benefits available. They were able to realise the roles they were expected to play more in the community. The craftsmen and women realised the important role they played in society and put in every effort to flood the market with their products, whose quality was greatly improved.

Through the family life education programmes, a family of people with similar objectives was built. They learnt about causes of social evils that abound in society and how to contain these evils. They learnt to take care of children, spouses and relatives and how to live decent lives and feed on a balanced diet. They learnt to live and relate together, work together on the farm and in the community and enjoy themselves together. The project was a unifying force binding all together.