There are a number of international commitments and benchmarks that emphasise the role of adult literacy in achieving education for all and development. Such initiatives include the Dakar Framework of Action (2000) Education for All Goals, United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD), the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). Specifically the fourth goal of Education For All (EFA) calls on countries to “achieve a 50 % improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all”.
Adult educators present a petition
In Uganda however, financing of adult literacy has been inadequate, inconsistent and un-coordinated. Unlike other programmes such as primary education, HIV/ AIDS, physical infrastructure development accessing funding for adult literacy programmes has increasingly become a dream especially for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) in Uganda is an approach designed to impart reading, writing and numeracy skills among adults side by side with other functional knowledge and skills in agriculture, health and other livelihood activities. Whereas adult literacy has diverse meanings, it is however recognized by UNESCO as a key component and a foundation for adult and lifelong learning. By 2001 about 5.5 milion women and 1.4 million men (6.9million in total) in Uganda were non-literate, constituting a 35 % illiteracy rate.
Using the international declarations, civil society organizations in Uganda engaged the central government to prioritise and mainstream adult literacy within national development frameworks such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and influenced the development of the National Adult Literacy Strategic Investment Plan (NALSIP).
LitNet, with funding from Irish Aid and DVV International, mobilized civil society to actively participate in the bottom-up planning to ensure local governments allocate resources and mainstream adult literacy activities within their development plans. These engagements resulted into increased resources for functional adult literacy from government conditional grants under the Poverty Action Fund (PAF), and non – conditional grants and other development programmes such as the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA).
The Author recommends to systematically link and mainstream adult literacy with national goals and other development programmes such as primary education and livelihood activities. Establish an Adult Literacy Fund for both state and civil society actors. Conduct and share widely, adequate research on the central role of adult literacy in the development process; achieving the EFA Goals and the Millennium Development Goals.
In this paper, you will find an over view of financing adult literacy programs in Uganda, integrating adult literacy into government plans; successes, challenges and opportunities with reference to the role of civil society and the Literacy Network for Uganda (LitNet) in particular.
Central Government is the main source of financing and lead implementer
The Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) Policy Brief (September, 2007) reveals that, “FAL is funded mainly through the Government Poverty Action Fund (PAF)… The annual budget from PAF is about 3 billion Uganda Shillings which is equally shared between the central government and the district local governments”.
Support from development partners
Since 2002, the Functional Adult Literacy Programme (FALP) in Uganda has also benefited financial and technical support from development partners, namely the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA), the German Adult Education Association (DVV International), the Embassy of Ireland and UNESCO. ICEIDA support to FAL for the fishing communities between 2002 and 2007 amounted to US$ 2,611,000 particularly to Kalagala and Mukono districts.
Key adult literacy civil society actors in Uganda
Other Agencies and Civil society organizations that have supported adult literacy programmes in Uganda include the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Action Aid International Uganda, Literacy and Adult Basic Education, (LABE) Literacy Network for Uganda (LitNet), Uganda Adult Education Network (UGAADEN), Uganda Adult Literacy Learners Association (ULALA), Uganda Programme of Literacy For Transformation (UPLIFT), Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD), Soroti Catholic Diocese Development Organisation (SOCADIDO), the Institutions of Higher Learning; Makerere University, Kyambogo University and Nsamizi Institute for Social Development.
Civil society engagement with Government
Civil Society Organisations engage with government at different levels in financing adult literacy and basic education, some establish parallel implementation structures, others initiate innovative adult literacy projects such as the Family Basic Education by Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE), the Integrated Adult Literacy Programme in Karamoja by ADRA, REFLECT and HIV/AIDS by Action Aid, Public – Private Partnership in Adult Basic Education by LitNet. In addition CSOs conduct research, material production and advocacy for the adult literacy and lifelong learning at all levels.
Table 1: Government financial releases in Uganda Shillings
Source: Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (Edited)
It can be observed from the above GoU financial release that 50 % of the annual programme budget is retained at the Centre and only 50 % is sent to district local government. It also does not capture financial contribution from non state actors. The financial allocation to FAL is declining from $ 2.18 million in 2002/03 to $ 1.87 million in 2006/07.There is no financial allocation for Civil Society Organizations although the PEAP 2004/5 recommended; “Government will continue to support the FAL activity and will consider the option of contracting out some of the services to CSOs”.
The ICEIDA support has been steadily increasing from $ 83,800 in 2002 to $ 725,000 by 2007. The direct financial contribution of ICEIDA support largely goes to 2 districts with 59 % against 20.7 % released to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Between 2002/03–2005/06, the 5 year NALSIP implementation reached out to 1,234,889 adult learners out of the targeted 3.5million non-literates constituting only a 35 % achievement in enrolment. Amount spent per learner from 2002–2006 was 10,835 Uganda shillings about US $ 6.40 which is far below the minimum projected cost of US $ 50 per learner as per the international benchmarks.
Multi – Stakeholders’ FAL sub-county planning session in Gulu District-Uganda, 2007
Civil Society Organisations in Uganda are of diverse capacity and operate at different levels. They range from Faith Based Organisations, NGOs, Community Based Organisations and other non-state providers of literacy and adult education including training institutions and individuals. After the development of NALSIP in 2002 it became even more difficult for CSOs to access funding for adult literacy projects as donors put funds for adult literacy through budget support. NGOs however, played a significant role in the planning, programme development and advocating for adult literacy programme in Uganda at different levels as reflected in the engagement model below.
CSOs Role at National Level
CSOs in Uganda, with the Literacy Network for Uganda (LitNet) as lead agency supported the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in 2002 to develop NALSIP for 2002/03–2006/07 that enabled the FAL programme to access funding from PAF under Pillar 5 of Human Development of the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). The annual government budget allocation for the FAL programme increased from Ug. shs 120 million in 1999/2000 to Ug. shs. 3.6 billion in 2002/03.
Among the key strategic objectives of NALSIP was to strengthen national commitment to the programme and incorporate district, sub-county and community level adult literacy action plans into overall development frameworks. Another key objective was to mobilize additional resources for sustainability of the adult literacy programme and quality implementation of its activities. The overall target of NALSIP was achieving a 50 % improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2007.
CSOs Role at District Level
LitNet, working with other civil society organizations and local governments since 2003, organized sensitisations on the need for adult literacy as a priority area of Government. This orientation targeted policy makers and staff of local governments and NGOs at district and sub-county level to ensure that adult literacy was identified as a priority under the local government development plans. It was found that most local government policy makers were not aware of the need for Adult Literacy and its benefits to community development. Yet a number of Participatory Poverty Assessment Reports indicated that most communities where ranking illiteracy and ignorance as among the key causes of poverty. The sensitization and advocacy meetings were followed by joint reviews and planning sessions at different levels (Village to District) involving district planners, local councilors, chairpersons, policy markers, agriculture extension staff, community members/learners, CSOs representatives and instructors.
At sub-county level (the smallest administrative unit of government)
Half success, half failure in promoting community participation in financing adult literacy in development programmes
The Uganda Local Governments (amendment) Act 1997 Section 36(3) stipulates that Local Governments shall prepare plans incorporating plans of the Lower Councils in the respective areas of jurisdiction. Section 50(b) and (f) of the Act, 1997, mandates villages and Parish Executive Committees to initiate, encourage, support and participate in self-help projects, mobilize people, materials and technical assistance and to monitor projects and other activities by Central Government, Local Governments and NGOs.
The Government of Uganda adopted a bottom-up planning process in line with the decentralization policy. Local communities therefore are expected to effectively participate in setting priorities based on their own local needs vis a vis the national priorities and goals.
By 2003 adult literacy did not feature prominently among the priorities for funding at local government level. This was partly due to poor facilitation during the community planning process and the desire for Local Government Councilors (Politicians) to support tangible projects such as roads, bore holes, desks, construction of class room blocks and health centers other than “soft ware” programmes such as adult literacy.
Adult literacy programmes at community level are run mainly by Volunteer Literacy Educators with minimal support from the government staff and NGOs. It is now being accepted that volunteering has limitations in achieving quality learning outcomes.
The adult learners and the community members make mainly non-financial contributions to the FAL learning programme, such as the learning venue, learning aids, demonstration sites, and sharing their expertise with fellow adult learners/ members. The adult learners were encouraged to participate in planning and advocating for the FAL programme at community and parish level.
In semi-urban and urban centers, adult learners pay fees for language/communication skills (English, Luganda, and Swahili) provided by private learning centres.
Success and learning points
Literacy course Source: LitNet
Still many challenges and limitations
What should we do as stakeholders? Suggestions for the way forward
DVV International 2008. Adult Literacy Benchmarks, Adult Education and Development Journal Vol. 71. 2008.
LitNet 2006 Public-Private partnership in Adult Basic Education, Report of a Study by LitNet August 2006 (LitNet, Kampala).
LitNet 2005–2008. Progress Review Reports. (LitNet, Kampala)
MGLSD 2002. National Adult Literacy Strategic Investment Plan 2002/03–2006/07.
MGLSD 2007. A Policy Brief on Literacy in Development, Outcome of a Process Review of the Functional Adult Literacy Programme in Uganda 2002–2006.
MoFPED 2004. Poverty Eradication Action Plan. 2004/5–2007/08.
MoLG 2004. Planning Manual for Local Governments.
Patrick Kiirya, Report of Needs Assessment and Baseline Study for Functional Adult Literacy in Fishing Communities of Bugiri District, 2007. MGLSD.
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