Robert Jjuuko

Too little money flows into adult education in Uganda too. Robert Jjuuko, an adult educator with many years of practical experience, describes the situation fully, explores the issue of funding, and sets out priorities. Robert Jjuuko is Chairman of the Uganda Adult Education Network (UGAADEN), a network of non-governmental organisations and persons in the field of Adult Education.


Reflection on Adult Education Priorities in Uganda: If There was Enough Money for Adult Education, What Would be the Priorities?

The Perspectives of a Ugandan Practitioner


Talking about enough money for adult education is risking the wrath of activists in many countries, more so those frustrated by unsupportive systems in the developing world. In Uganda as elsewhere, the concern and attention is always about how little governments and other development partners are committing to adult education outside formal schooling. Rarely do colleagues in the adult education field reflect on how the available money is being spent.

The debate about the current scanty investment in adult education often is wanting as it neglects important questions about the value and impact of the (existing) little investment. A useful discussion ought to examine as well the current priorities; and establish whether adult learners are not getting less of what they deserve in the light of overall spending. In Uganda's Functional Adult Literacy Programme, for example, payment for the volunteer adult instructors / facilitators is described as an unfunded priority while claims of government commitment to the programme abound in political speeches amidst disappointing performance.

This discussion raises queries pertinent to the process and nature of stakeholders' decisions and choices in regard to adult education priorities, taking the case of two programme areas from Uganda, namely the Functional Adult Literacy Programme (FALP) and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). FALP and NAADS are examples of a number of adult education programmes being undertaken directly by the Government of Uganda. While FALP is clearly perceived by Government and other Stakeholders as an adult education activity, NAADS just like many other similar development programmes is not explicitly identified as such by many. A little is also said on the disappointing adult education policy framework. The views in this paper are largely based on what I have seen and heard in my work as a lobbyist /activist and practitioner.

What are the Boundaries of Adult Education?

Perhaps this is one of the tough questions that continue to puzzle me in my engagement with adults, and later on their education, for over 10 years. The question became more puzzling when the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA V) held in 1997 at Hamburg, broadened the 1976 definition from adult education to adult learning (UNESCO: 2003). Broadening the scope of adult education attracts opportunities and challenges; perhaps later on we might see whether this is one of the impediments to securing deserving funding.

Besides the new thinking, adult education is a very elusive concept, hence the choice to describe its clients, purpose and circumstances that prompt the desire to learn and to continue learning. Attempting to make clear cut demarcations of where adult education starts and ends is rather challenging.

UNESCO's Description of Adult Education

In 1976, UNESCO said that

"adult education denotes the entire body of organized educational processes, whatever the content, level and method, whether formal or otherwise, whether they prolong or replace the initial schools, colleges, and universities, as well as an apprenticeship, whereby persons regarded as adults by the societies to which they belong develop their abilities, enrich their knowledge, improve their technical or professional qualifications or turn them in a new direction and bring about improved changes in their attitudes or behaviour in the twofold perspective of full personal development and participation in balanced and independent social, economic and cultural development." (UNESCO: 1976)

One can easily infer from the above that adult education is whatever education anybody regarded as an adult can access. In an attempt to demarcate boundaries, this may result in listing whatever an adult learns or wishes to learn.

However, further reflection on how often this adult engages in de-liberate learning takes one to another level of consideration. Equally relevant is the question of where does he or she go for this deliberate learning. Is it under a tree at the usual village meeting venue or in a nearby school or to a University Extra-Mural facility? Today, in Uganda, countless commercial media announcements on radio, television, streets, buildings and in newspapers call upon primary school drop-outs to enroll for adult education for attaining Ordinary and Advanced Level Education Certificates in clearly formal school settings. Often interested adults enroll and put aside or relax many of their reproductive and productive roles to attend to the rigor of this schooling style of learning. So, what use is it describing this type of education as adult education? Many other interesting questions to do with whether for example a fresh undergraduate professional who chooses to straight away enroll for a Master Degree programme should be regarded as an adult learner in the context of the UNESCO definition need to be examined in greater detail. Certainly, one expects different answers to the above concerns as influenced by space, time, level of development, philosophical and methodological orientations of the parties involved in the discourse.

Out-of-School Adult Education

For the purpose of this discussion, we will largely concentrate on adult education that takes place on a rather less routine basis. Let us incline ourselves to Karan Florida's description of adult education. In an article on Research Priorities in adult and continuing education in Kenya, Karan says that adult education "signifies any form of learning undertaken by men and women who no longer go to school on a fulltime basis (Indabawa, A. S. et al [eds]: 2000). This gives rise to the notion of education for out-of-school men and women or non-formal adult education. This understanding seems to be the basis of decisions pertaining to the specific boundaries of adult education in terms of programme planning. Clearly the programme areas of many state and non-state adult education providers in many African countries seem to follow this path. The Uganda draft national adult learning policy document sets out the following areas of focus:

  • Adult Literacy
  • Continuing Education
  • Vocational and Technical Skills Development
  • Socio-Cultural Education
  • Employee Skills Development
  • Livelihood Education
  • Civic Education
  • Health Education / HIV/AIDS
  • Information, Communication and Technology
  • Agricultural Education

One needs to recognize that this line of thinking is adopted for the sake of deepening this discussion but is by no means a negation of informal and incidental learning and even formal adult learning as clearly envisaged by the Hamburg Declaration, which not only recognized lifelong but life-wide learning as well.

What is Relevant from the International Scene?

Contemporary education discourse is incomplete without a reflection on the proceedings and outcomes of the World Education Forum held in Dakar Senegal in April 2000 and the UN Millennium Summit held in New York in September 2000. The former culminated in the Dakar Framework for Action, Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments. In doing so, participants at the Forum reaffirmed the vision of the World Declaration on Education for All adopted ten years earlier in Jomtien, Thailand (UNESCO : 2000). In New York, all the world's governments adopted the Eight Millennium Development Goals as a blueprint for building a better world in the 21st Century.

For our case, let us point out the three goals of the six EFA goals that to some extent relate to adult education (UNESCO: 2000):

  • Goal 3: Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes
  • Goal 4: Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults
  • Goal 6: Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

In regard to the eight Millennium Development Goals, none explicitly relate to the education of adults. Actually only goals 2 & 3 (Achieve universal primary education and Promote gender equality and empower women) relate to education in general and basic education in particular.

In practice, the six EFA goals together with the two educational MDGs are generally regarded as a package of basic education choices for children, youth and adults. The Dakar Framework for Action and the Millennium Declaration seem to have narrowed education to basic education. Actually, it is being claimed that the expanded vision of education for all as envisaged in Jomtien Thailand in 1990 has considerably shrunk (DVV International: 2000). We will get back to how this orientation impacts on investment choices by both international and national education stakeholders.

One would wish to consider the generosity of CONFINTEA in broadening the scope of adult education particularly in respect of the declaration to do with "A New Vision of Adult Learning". However, the apparent realization that the expanded view of adult learning has its own challenges in relation to investment, financing and coordination of efforts cannot be ignored.

Who Pays for the Education of Adults?

Getting back to the international context is still relevant at this point since in today's globalised world, local actions are greatly impacted by international trends. During the World Education Forum in 2000, a rather overriding pledge was made that no country in need should be denied international assistance (EFA GMR 2007). Specifically under goal no. 6, the Dakar Framework for Action explicitly states that "no countries seriously committed to Education for All will be thwarted in their achievement oft his goal by lack of resources" (UNESCO 2000).

Actually, James D. Wolfensohn the then President of the World Bank in a plenary address expressed a need to put into place a fast-track action for countries that are committed to achieving EFA goals sooner than the 2015 timeline; that under such a demand-driven process, donors must be ready to respond more quickly and help countries when they are ready to move (UNESCO 2000). However, these promises seem to have meant little in respect of adult education and even in specific regard to adult basic education / literacy.

Today the focus of the Fast Track Initiative is on Universal Primary Education (UPE). While the Dakar Framework for Action listed six goals, the World Bank seems to be interested in the two education goals it pushed to be included as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Overall, the World Bank and the majority of donors or development partners are focusing on mainstream schooling especially for children and youth. Under the Sector Wide Approach, Uganda's Ministry of Education and its Education Funding Group partners make annual reviews of the education sector with a preoccupation on Primary Education. The budgetary allocations during the fiscal year 2005/06 were clearly in favour of primary schooling.

Table 1: Budgetary Shares during FY 2005/06

Sub-Sector Budget Share
Primary Education 67,1 %
Secondary Education
16,1 %
Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training
3,9 %
Tertiary11,1 %
Others1,1 %

Source: Ministry of Education and Sports 20

Uganda is one of the prominent beneficiaries of Official Development Assistance (ODA). It receives bilateral and multilateral support to finance its social services and infrastructural development from several development partners including UN agencies, the World Bankamong others. The country's relatively good performance in implementing UPE has earned it considerable fame and support from quite a number of donors and development partners. As elsewhere in many countries, there is no reference to non-formal adult education in official statistics on education assistance. The education sector working group would only be interested in adult basic education in as much as it is seen to contribute to the promotion of primary education but not in its own right and merit.

As already mentioned, tracing the place of adult education and more so non-formal adult education in the official education assistance and financing arrangements is rather cumbersome for obvious reasons. It is safer to get down to what is referred to as social development sector planning and investment processes so as to locate the level of Government commitment to the education of adults outside the formal school. This takes us to the Uganda Government Poverty Eradication strategy and Vision 2025.

The nationwide aspirations that guide the Government's development agenda are contained in the Uganda Vision 2025 report (Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development: 2004). This report highlights elimination of mass poverty as the key concern that merits highest priority. To this end the Government developed a Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). The PEAP forms the Government's consolidated response to the problem of poverty in Uganda. It provides the overall framework within which Government planning and programming takes place. It guides the identification of priorities, allocation of resources as well as the assessment of progress and impact of Government development programmes. The PEAP has been recently revised; and the revision further strengthened the pillars to do with building human capital with emphasis on education with a skills focus as well as enhancing the productive capacity of the Ugandan farmers, most of whom are currently practicing subsistence methods.

The Functional Adult Education and Adult Literacy Programme (FALP) and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) are some of the programmes that are within the PEAP framework, hence their eligibility to access Poverty Action Funds (PAF). These funds are largely contributed by Uganda's Development Partners as part of a global strategy relieving debt burdens of poor countries to free up resources for investment in poverty reduction and other social purposes. Government is required to make supplementary funding with regard to many of the projects supported by development partners.

With the advent of the Local Governments Act of 1995, local governments have considerable political and fiscal powers and responsibilities to spend on agreed priorities. However, many are constrained as a result of the dwindling revenue collection; and their popular legitimacy is at great risk. In the circumstances, however, they are still able to provide structural and moral support to FALP and NAADs activities.

Adult learners have always willingly contributed to their education, more significantly when it is to do with upgrading or further studies of a professional nature. Apart from investing their time to attend, organize meeting venues and engaging in public relations to promote adult education, I am not aware of any other significant direct financial contributions to adult basic education / literacy by adult learners.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) including faith-based agencies are, since the period of colonialism, making significant contributions to the education of adults. Indigenous civil society groups have always provided free labour and other in-kind contributions.

It is worth noting that the financial power of many of these indigenous civil society groups is based on donations / grants from developed countries, especially from Europe. With regard to the private business sector, it is not a common practice for employers to meet the cost of teaching literacy, numeracy and life skills to their employees.

External partners are in several categories. There are those that identify themselves clearly as adult education agencies. The Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (now DVV International) affords a good example. But there are those who are providing considerable investments without identifying themselves as such. Actionaid Uganda International and the Icelandic International Development Agency are examples of such agencies that finance adult education activities without a single word in their name to suggest so.

It would be interesting to find out exactly who with a conscious mind pays for the education of adults; and with full understanding that the money is really to meet the cost of helping adults learn per se. Of course, the search for how much is exactly spent or contributed to the education of adults is easily bogged down by the very nature of adult education conception and practice in Uganda, which is characterized by a nagging absence of a systematic delivery system.

What are the Priorities?

Before we get specifically into the National Agricultural Advisory Services and Functional Adult Literacy Programme investment priorities, let us reflect on what informs choices for investment in adult education generally. From the macro to the lowest levels of service delivery decision makers are often raising the following queries; and their answers greatly affect the investment choices:

  • Who are we spending the money on, for what and why?
  • Is it the rural or urban poor, non-literates, semi-literates or economically active poor that should be the target?
  • Is spending on adult education for socio-cultural and political empowerment greater than the immediate economic development for the individual's own benefit and that of his/her community?
  • Is it investment to make adults "better" citizens with the required knowledge, skills and attitudes to be loyal to their government?
  • Is it investment to make adults versatile in the labour market or further ground them in "improved subsistence agricultural practices"?
  • Is the education of adults anything beyond telling them what they must know; does it mean helping them unleash their potential to learn and act with dignity and autonomy?
  • Is the investment to increase enrollment or improve quality?

Many times the choices are driven by the inclination to think of adult education in terms of its importance to support economic activities of individuals. I have often heard public decision makers demanding that adult education programmes "talk economics".

Functional Adult Literacy Programme (FALP)

The Functional Adult Literacy Programme is the official adult literacy programme of the Government of Uganda being spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. In 2002, the Ministry developed the National Adult Literacy Investment Plan (NALSIP). NALSIP's mission is to increase people's access to information and participation in self, community and national development activities for poverty eradication

The National Adult Literacy Strategic Investment Plan is a 5 year blueprint for guiding public and private actions. The programme's target is to reach 50 % of Uganda's close to 7 million non-literates by 2007. FALP activities are financed from Poverty Action Funds (PAF). The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development claims that slightly over 1.2 million adult learners have attended Adult Literacy Classes.

During the 2006/07 fiscal year, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has planned to spend 26 % and 32 % of its recurrent budget on production of materials and bicycles for instructors respectively. Training facilities and equipment are not prioritized. The current budget allocations reflect no commitment toward professional development, support and welfare of instructors. The offer of bicycles to instructors is yet to be supported by empirical evidence as a tangible source of motivation.

Obviously, financing for functional adult literacy cannot compare at all with allocations to formal schooling. In the fiscal year 2006/07, for instance, primary education service delivery is likely to cost shs480 billion compared to FALP's ceiling, which declined to shs3.26 billion in 2005/06.

Table 2: Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Priorities 2006/07

MoGLSD 2006/07 FAL Sumarised Priorities (Salary foe Headquarter not included)

PriorityAmount  (US $) %
Meetings, Workshops, and literacy day events
Monitoring and consultancy
 49,180.33 7%
Material development
 175,136.61 26%
Review of national adult literacy programme126,389.0719%
Mobilization and sensitization
Purchase of bycicles for volunteer instructors
128,579.23 32%
Total (Expenditure administered directly by the Ministry


However, complaints about minimal funding notwithstanding, one wonders whether the chosen priorities have a potential of making any significant impact, no matter the magnitude. For close to five years now, the Programme has never reached even 50 % of its target. There are considerable concerns about the quality of learning. Ac-cording to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the programme relies on 20,000 unpaid volunteer instructors who only receive occasional one-off offers of bicycles. In its ministerial policy statement for the fiscal year 2006/07, the Ministry said that the failure to pay any cash incentives to the Functional Adult Literacy Instructors might lead their attrition rate to rise.

The question of whether a national adult literacy programme can successfully rely on volunteers is of universal interest. The Global Campaign for Education correctly states that the quality of the teacher (instructor) is probably the most critical factor in determining the quality of any learning process (GCE and Actionaid International: 2005). GCE further makes a pertinent comment that the pay for facilitators is one of the most sensitive issues in the whole adult literacy sector. In many of our communities, it is the Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Instructor who carries the burden of organizing and mobilizing adult learners. Since learning sessions take place in rather temporary conditions, the FAL instructor's presence and performance actually in itself substitutes the physical infrastructure that characterizes the formal school environment.

Surprisingly, many public and private decision makers continuously reject cash incentives or routine welfare benefits to FAL instructors, repeatedly citing financial constraints. It is just assumed that volunteers are always there to provide free labour; and that priority should be given to something else. Actually, many people still think that any literate person of average level can be a FAL instructor. This has re-duced Adult Literacy Programmes to symbolic political statements of good intentions without tangible impact at the grassroots. The FAL volunteer instructors are ill-motivated, poorly trained and irregular at work. Many FAL classes exist in the records; materials worth millions are not put to good use. National and district adult literacy managers and supervisors are often confronted with frustrating excuses from instructors and their learners in relation to attendance and regularity of classes. Some adult learners remain part of the FAL class registers just for strategic reasons other than learning literacy. They receive less than what they deserve; they often learn nothing but to be present whenever there are visitors.

By current commitments and trends, the target to reduce adult il-literacy from 35% to 18% by the year 2015 cannot be achieved. Government needs not only to devise innovative ways of raising more resources but also carefully put right FAL priorities to avoid wasting its own time and that of the adult learners. Sober negotiations to allocate meager resources among competing priorities must precede implementation at different levels.

National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS)

The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) is a programme created under the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture as one of the Government of Uganda intervention programmes to eradicate poverty from the rural communities. It involves new approaches to agricultural extension service delivery where services are privately delivered but funded by public resources. NAADS is an example of several adult education-oriented programmes which are not identified as such by both the implementers and beneficiaries. NAADS's mission is to increase farmer access to information, knowledge and technology for profitable agricultural production.

The NAADS programme operation is guided by several principles and quite a number are more less adult education principles. These include farmer empowerment, fostering participation, increasing institutional efficiency, privatization, improving linkages to markets, poverty targeting, gender mainstreaming, managing natural resources, productivity, HIV/AIDS mainstreaming and harmonization.

NAADS programme has a vision for 25 years with 7 years for its first phase covering the financial period from 2001/2002 through 2007/2008. The cost for the first phase is estimated at US$108 million from four sources of funding. These include Co-operating Partners, participating Local Governments, participating Farmers and the Government of the Republic of Uganda. At the moment Co-operating Partners include International Development Association (IDA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), European Union (EU), Department for International Development (DFID), Netherlands International Assistance, Irish Aid and DANIDA.

The NAADS programme funding is through "Basket Funding", an arrangement which is a new approach in the country. Funds provided by Co-operating Partners (earmarked budget support) and the Uganda Government contribution follow a Common Flow of Funds Mechanism where the funds are pooled into a common "basket" under the Government Consolidated Fund.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Uganda Government and the Co-operating Partners guides the funding and implementation modalities. Co-operating Partners contribute 80 % of the NAADS budget, the Government of Uganda 8%, Local Governments 10 % and Farmers 2 %. These shares in the NAADS budget will change over the planned 25-year period of the NAADS programme. Farmers and Local Governments will take on increasing funding responsibilities in line with the level of commercialization achieved.

Due to limitations in funding under the Government "Medium Term Expenditure Framework" (MTEF), the Government of Uganda budget may not always be able to accommodate the NAADS budget, which in the initial years has a high growth rate. Consequently some funding has in the past been, and most probably will in the near future be, sourced under project mode. In the past two years funding under this mode has been provided by the European Union (in addition to the budget support funding), the Agricultural Research Training Program (ARTP II) from the World Bank and DAN IDA.

In addition to the above funding arrangements, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has made available limited funds to NAADS to address special initiatives to pilot some aspects of processes in implementing NAADS and for mainstreaming some cross cutting issues in NAADS activities such as HIV/AIDS.

Planning, Budgeting and Implementation

The Co-operating Partners and the Government of Uganda work together systematically over the course of each year to agree on implementation plans, financial commitments and implementation progress. Co-operating Partners plan, budget and commit their financial support to NAADS in a manner in line with Government of Uganda planning and budgeting cycle.

NAADS implementation is through local governments. The local governments recruit and engage service providers on contractual terms. The NAADS Secretariat however, provides co-ordination and backstopping. In essence, the actual implementation and the bulk of spending are for local service delivery, as Table 3 on the funds allocation framework can reveal. In the fiscal year 2003/04, NAADS used slightly over U$9.6m on activities ranging from providing farmers with information and advisory services to technology development and linkage to markets.

Table 3: NAADS Funds Allocation Framework

InstitutionFinancial Allocation %
Activities catered for
NAAD Secretariat
Not more than 12
National Co-ordination and supervision by the NAADS Board And Secretariat
District Level Activitie Not more than 12
 District Co-coordination, quality assurance, de-layering and district wide technology development
Sub-countiesOver 75  Contracting of service providers, technology development, and capacity building in participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Source: NAADS Annual Report 2003/04

The NAADS financing and expenditure experience puts into perspective the need to reflect on the common complaint about inadequate funding of adult education activities. As already implied, NAADS is a comparatively well resourced programme, but stakeholders are repeatedly raising concern over its negligible contribution to modernization of agriculture and eventual improvement in the quality of farmers' living conditions. In January 2007, HE the President threatened to subject the programme to a public probe (New Vision Newspaper of 15th January 2007).

Table 4: Summary of NAADS Draft Accounts for FY 2003/04

Project AktivitiesTotal Expenditure (UShs)(US$)
Avisory and Information Services to Famers
Technology Development and Linkage with Markets3,134,600,0001,712,896.17
Quality Assurance / Regulation / Technical Auditing of Service Providers
Private Sector Institutional Development
Programme Management and Monitoring
 Total Programme Expenditure 17,715,300,0009,680,109.29

Source: NAADS Annual Report 2003/04 (edited)

In general terms, however, the priority activities seem to be alright. The implementation and funds allocation framework that require over 70 % of resources to be translated into actions at the sub county and community levels is equally a plausible strategy. Perhaps, the problem lies partly in investing little for professional delivery of services. The NAADS programme staff and service providers seem to have qualifications other than the required competence to design and implement suitable non-formal education and training activities that meet the needs, interests, aspirations and demands of the farmers

What are the Challenges in Adult Education Funding?

Lack of a shared understanding works against efforts to attract organized funding to the field. This is compounded by the lack of a policy framework to regulate and guide service delivery. Apart from the Government White Paper on Education of 1992 and a series of sector plans and polices with elements relevant to adult education, Uganda has no clear official policy statement. Efforts are just being made to develop one, which will most likely focus on just the adult literacy component in terms of its operationalisation.

The lack of a coherent policy framework is both a cause and an effect of little political will and commitment toward adult education practice and service delivery. Because public decision makers are always constrained due to competing priorities amidst inadequate resources, a field without a clear policy is naturally a convenient one to bear the brunt of budget cuts and re-allocations at different levels. The reduction of the scanty budget for functional adult literacy from Ushs3.61 billion in 2004/5 to Ushs3.26 billion in 2005/6 affords a good example.

Closely linked to the above is lack of information on how much has been spent on what exactly, what vivid impact has been created; and how much is needed to spend on what priorities for what value. The seeming ambiguity of the field as further exacerbated by a lack of a succinct legislation makes it extremely challenging to make a convincing cost-benefit analysis.

Politicians and economists who dominate decision-making are often fascinated with what they call hard statistics. Computing the cost of helping adults to learn to perform their social, economic and political duties is a rather daunting task. We are aware that adult education is not the only contributor to development but carving out its role and demonstrating it to decision makers calls for a credible knowledge base. Unfortunately, current efforts are not coordinated, and there is little investment in research and documentation, which makes adult education financing advocacy some sort of mere activism. This brings into perspective the choice of priorities as well as the professional guidance and coordination of whatever efforts are being made by the different public and private departments and agencies.

The current support by foreign sources for clearly defined adult education programmes such as adult literacy is a temporary blessing due to the absence of a commensurate contribution by Government and other local stakeholders. As Okech A. et al (2004:144) correctly put it, this is not a healthy trend because external funding is usually for a limited period of time and cannot therefore be relied on for sustainable continuity of the programme. External funding has tended to disfavour infrastructural development for obvious reasons.

In Uganda, the translation of international agreements and conventions on education into local actions is considerably haphazard just like the premise and intentions that underlie many of these international negotiations and declarations. While many civil society organizations seem to embrace education or learning as envisaged by the Education for All conferences of 1990 and 2000 in Jomtien and Dakar as well as UNESCO's CONFINTEA in 1997, politicians and Government bureaucrats seem to be obsessed with schooling.

The formal schooling emphasis is supported by the World Bank, which of course was very instrumental in the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals that narrowed education to basic education for children. In addition to the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme, the Government of Uganda is introducing a Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme with an initial investment cost of Ushs30 billion.

Clearly both UPE and USE do not recognize educational processes outside the formal school though their complementary role is widely appreciated. From the Ministry of Education Aide Memoire of 2007, it is clear how even the Uganda Education Partners known as the Education Funding Group (EFAG) are equally preoccupied with schooling. The document just mentions informal or non-formal skills training as a domain of the Ministry of Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Neither a mechanism nor a budget line of investment in the same is indicated.

Investment by adult learners in their own education is constrained by social systems that have consistently failed to make literacy or knowledge a useful and essential ingredient of the socio-economic improvement of individuals.

The intellectual rhetoric that regards knowledge as a mother of empowerment and social transformation notwithstanding, adult learners need to be convinced that adult education / literacy is a necessary investment for directly attacking economic poverty. Because skills from existing out-of-school adult education programmes are not viewed by adults as a powerful weapon for destroying their economic misery, few are willing to sacrifice their little income for education.

What Can be Done?

In general terms, a change in the financing pattern of adult education programmes in a developing country like Uganda is greatly influenced by actions at the international level. However, pressurizing bilateral and multilateral development partners to put some resources into the official education assistance package for out-of-school adult education should be backed by local actions. In Uganda, those who acknowledge the value and role of adult education can consider the following steps:

  • Strongly advocate for clear cut legislation and policy at different levels of public spending to articulate the meaning, scope and purpose of adult education. The legal framework should clearly stipulate the coordination mechanisms, set standards, recognize and harmonize the different elements of adult education services that are spread over the various ministries and organizations.
  • Revisit current priorities and consider investing meaningfully in personnel welfare and professional development, documentation, continuous research, monitoring and evaluation. Existing adult education programmes must be of good quality to attract financial contributions by all stakeholders including the adult learners themselves, employers, development partners and Government.
  • Engage development partners, especially those on the Education Sector Working Group, and forge a mutual partnership to entrench adult education into national education plans and strategies. This kind of partnership is necessary for making a case for adult education in the Social Sector Development Investment Plans that are rooted in the Poverty Eradication Action Plan.
  • Civil Society Organizations involved in advocacy work should make an intellectual reflection and re-orient their engagement strategies to reflect the diversity of adult education. The hitherto narrow preoccupation on adult literacy or adult basic education creates a small group of activists that cannot make the required difference. Given its broadness, advocacy in adult education requires strategies of a wide spectrum to create the necessary legitimacy and critical mass.
  • Since making a case for adult education often finds resistance amongst economists, more so the Ministry of Finance, activists ought to capitalize on its social value. Embedding adult education in the rather popular programmes such as agricultural extension and good governance should go side by side with entrenching it in the Education for All movement. It is therefore important that adult education activists and lobbyists consider partnering with formal education supporters to form a national EFA forum. This would help a great deal in influencing things at both national and international levels.

This reflection reveals the fact that many activists repeatedly decry what they call negligible funding for adult education, but judged from a wide perspective this seems to be a bit inaccurate. Actually, as seen from the NAADS case, there are several such programmes being implemented by Government and civil society organizations in Uganda with rather considerable investment from public and private sources.

However, there seems to be an invisible but fatal weakness of investing less in the right personnel with the right skills and orientation to cause visible social change. As seen from the two programmes, while FALP relies on unpaid ill-trained volunteer instructors NAADS depends on business-oriented service providers without the required competence to design, implement and monitor non-formal education and training programmes. The other weakness is politicization of development programmes which of course is a cross-cutting phenomenon. The Functional Adult Literacy Programme was for example driven to cover the whole country without enlarging its budget ceiling. NAADS is being rushed to cover many more districts, hence spreading too widely without creating a tangible impact in a single district.

At a higher level of public policy making, funding choices should be made to increase enrollment alongside quality improvement; employ-ability or productivity of adult learners should be balanced with social empowerment and enabling them to live and work with dignity and autonomy. Investment in research, training, monitoring and documentation should occupy comfortable positions on the adult education funding priority lists.

Above all, one needs to consider the benefits and drawbacks of prioritizing remuneration for adult instructors, facilitators, trainers, animators and other adult education professionals no matter whether the programme is explicitly identified as such or not. The consequences of free or cheap labour in adult education work in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa have the potential to damage the credibility of the field sooner or later.



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Adult Education and Development


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