National roll-out of the new Integrated Community Learning for Wealth Creation programme in Uganda

During the 2020 International Literacy Day celebrations the Ugandan Commissioner of Community Development and Literacy informed all administrative heads of local governments that the new Integrated Community Learning for Wealth Creation (COLEW) programme, that was designed with the support of DVV International, is officially succeeding the previous Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) programme (watch online event here). It will now be rolled out to the whole country.

DVV International’s cooperation with the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) started in 2015 when the MGLSD was exploring alternative literacy approaches to either revamp or replace the FAL programme. The new programme and methodology was supposed to meet learners’ needs, specifically around financial literacy and livelihoods opportunities combined with adult literacy. DVV International shared its experience and expertise and designed a new methodology, programme and implementation modality together with the MGLSD experts and management. DVV International’s experience with REFLECT as an integrated adult literacy approach that allows for community participation and combines adult literacy successfully with development and other social issues, was useful in the debate that led to the design of the new approach. Drawing substantially from the REFLECT approach and learning process, the new ICOLEW programme is in line with Uganda’s Vision 2040 and the Adult Literacy and Community Development policies, and embodies the following components and adult education services:

  • Adult Literacy
  • Community Development
  • Business Skills Training
  • Livelihoods Skills Training
  • Village Savings and Loan Schemes (VSLA)
  • Life skills

Piloting the new programme

The newly designed ICOLEW has been piloted since 2016 in 4 districts, with DVV International providing technical and financial support. The MGLSD and district government offices also contributed financial and human resources as well as land and buildings for ICOLEW groups and later for Community Learning Centres (CLCs) which were incorporated into the programme implementation modality. The MGLSD and their local government offices are the main implementers and they co-operate with other sector offices, such as agriculture, to deliver all the ICOLEW components.

As the pilot programme evolved from the preparation and capacity building stages to fully fledged ICOLEW groups with trained community facilitators and local government experts acting as trainers and supervisors, evidence started to emerge that the demand from the wider community and surrounding districts for the approach was beyond the pilot programme’s capacity to absorb. Not only did literacy levels increase, as was shown by the quarterly learner assessments that were conducted, but several community development action points were implemented jointly by ICOLEW groups, community members and local government sector offices. The Village Savings and Loan Schemes became a model for savings schemes and all departments within the MGLSD were recommended to follow the approach. As ICOLEW group members participated in the livelihoods and business skills training, they started agro-based income generating activities and some groups have evolved to the level of cooperatives.

At institutional level, implementation and coordination structures have been established, oriented and trained from community level to national government level. These structures incorporate both the technical and political structures of government.

Implications of the announcement for national roll-out

During the International Literacy Day celebrations of 2016, the Minister of the MGLSD announced the start of the ICOLEW pilot programme, and during the 2020 celebrations the Commissioner of Community Development and Literacy was authorised to write a circular to all administrative heads of local governments informing them that ICOLEW is the official successor programme to FAL. Some of the implications of this milestone announcement are that:

  • A pilot programme that started in only 4 districts of Uganda now has to be rolled out in a phased approach to the whole country, namely 136 districts, 9 cities and 14 municipal councils;
  • All government resources that were previously allocated for FAL will now go to financing ICOLEW (annually around 302,000 Euro), with a robust resource mobilisation strategy underway;
  • Wide-scale training and capacity building has to take place;
  • The nationally developed documents, such as the up-scaling strategy, programme implementation guidelines, training manuals, etc., will have to be disseminated to all government structures in districts and sub-counties.
  • An inter-sectoral forum to bring all stakeholders on board needs to be established.
  • All development partners have to shift from FAL to ICOLEW (which is described as both an approach and programme).

Learning Insights

When reflecting upon this milestone event, some of the success factors that contributed are:

  • DVV International’s partnership with the MGLSD and all sector offices is on the basis equality, where each partner plays their role and contributes both technical and financial/human resources.
  • The ownership of the programme lies in the hands of the implementer, namely the MGLSD, whereas DVV International plays a technical support and co-funding role.
  • The programme’s design is within the existing structure and means of the government and thereby ensures the possibility of up-scaling and sustainability.
  • Institutional mechanisms were created within the government’s existing structural design and these structures and leadership were involved in the pilot programme’s implementation in an ongoing manner. Top leadership, including the Minister, visited the pilot programme and confirmed that it is in line with the national development plans of the country.
  •  Regular presentations by MGLSD experts and management to senior district and national leadership, as well as top policy organs with the necessary evidence on the ground, made a convincing case to announce ICOLEW as the successor of FAL.
  • DVV International’s expertise and support of the MGLSD at micro, meso and macro level within the systematic framework of the Adult Education System Building approach falls within a long-term strategic orientation.
  • DVV International’s tested approaches on literacy and CLCs in the region and provision of exposure and learning opportunities was validated.

The joint piloting of a model for potential up-scaling was a learning experience in partnership for both DVV International and the MGLSD, and in how the design and implementation of such pilot projects need continuous evidence-based influence and internal advocacy from within the MGLSD and between MGLSD and DVV International. DVV International will continue to support the MGLSD technically and financially in the up-scaling process.

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