6.1. The role of NGOs
6.2. Adult education and literacy
6.3. Lok Jumbish - Rajistan
6.5. Lessons for Southern Africa
This chapter will discuss the importance of adult female literacy as a strategy to raise girls' enrolment as well as exploring new forms of educational partnerships.
The delivery of education is not entirely a state monopoly and NGOs have a central role to play. NGOs have the advantage of possessing flexible organisation and management structures and of being oriented towards low cost, cost-effective, community level activities. They are often better placed, therefore, to introduce innovative approaches aimed at improving' the participation of girls and women in education and training. The devolution of authority to regional and local governments currently underway in several African countries, also offers the possibility of greater involvement of NGOs in education. It has been widely argued that NGO work in the area of non-formal education (NFE) is vital if the objectives of Education for All (EFA) are to be met (MEDIAnatura, 1995).
Notwithstanding the above mentioned importance and advantages of NGOs, they do encounter a number of problems with regard to educational delivery:
· In general, NGO education projects are small scale while the problems of adult literacy are massive.
· Although their activities tend to be cost-effective, they do often require external funding which is only available to the better known NGOs which have managed to gain access to the international donor community.
· At times, NGOs take on large scale delivery of education which can lead to parallel bureaucracies (such as The Bangladesh Rural Action Committee, BRAC) and relieves the state of its responsibilities to provide such education.
· Where NGOs cooperate with the state, funding can change the nature of their activities, reducing in particular their capacity for effective advocacy.
· NGO literacy initiatives are rarely subject to rigorous critical evaluation.
There is a strong tendency for donor agencies to use national NGOs primarily as client outreach agencies rather than providers of alternative models of education. Fragmentary evidence would suggest that in the area of gender there is a significant difference between the work of mixed and women only NGOs with the latter offering more innovatory approaches and courses not run by government institutions (Stromquist, 1994).
The goal of achieving Universal Primary Education for all will not be achieved unless the needs of adult learners are addressed as well. Both parents play a crucial role in decisions concerning their children' schooling but the influence of mothers on their daughters' education is particularly important. Once parents are educated themselves, they are more willing and able to see the benefits of educating girls. Action Aid has found adult literacy to be a strong foundation for organising the community into PTAs in support of school and village education committees (Caxton Partnership Conference, 1995). Unfortunately, the link between adult female literacy and girls' enrolment in primary school is not well researched in Africa. However, more generally, Lalage Bown's investigation into the special effects of women's literacy as opposed to girls' schooling concluded that there is enough evidence to show that adult women's literacy brings about changes in attitudes and behaviour which in turn result in social and economic change. She concludes from a number of case studies that womens' literacy has also been a catalyst for positive change in favour of girls' education. For example, in Nepal, an income generating project with a literacy component led to some girls enroling in school for the first time. In Brazil, a literacy project for prostitutes was followed by the women opening a school in a local favela for their own and other local children. In Nepal again, an Action Aid study reported that literate women helped children with their homework (Bown, 1990).
Income generating activities have often been combined in literacy projects aimed at women. Despite the uneven track record of NGOs in terms of income generating projects, evidence from the Caribbean indicates that NGOs have shown more initiative than government bodies in training women in non-traditional skills and opening up employment for them in the informal sector. The same conclusion can be drawn from other regions (McGrath and King, 1995). The arguments for adult literacy, however, have been weakened by lack of effective research and low success rates. As a donor, the World Bank has been influential in shaping the debate. In 1987, the Bank virtually ceased lending for adult literacy, citing the disappointing results of literacy programmes and campaigns (MEDIAnatura, 1995). The World Bank estimates that over the past 30 years, literacy programmes have only had a 12.5% effectiveness rate (Archer and Cottingham, 1995). However, included among these are mainly centrally directed government initiatives and the reasons for their failure are not sufficiently analysed. Nor does the Bank explore the results of many NGO literacy programmes. It is true that government agencies have not fully considered the material and ideological constraints operating against womens' participation.
The international agencies and most other donors, are now all stressing the critical need for increases in primary education provision often coming under the rubric of 'basic education' (World Bank, 1995 and ODA, 1994). This is usually justified on the grounds of equity as well as the beneficial social and economic impacts on girls in terms of health, nutrition, and reduced fertility. The emphasis on primary education has been reinforced by the predilection of the World Bank and most donor agencies for quantifiable indicators of education output (using rate of return analyses) as measures of success. While primary schooling is certainly more measurable than adult education, it does seem paradoxical that the arguments for primary schooling are not transferred to the education of adult females where basic literacy can be achieved more quickly than four or five years of primary schooling and the impacts of such education are known to be beneficial. Stromquist in her study (1994) of donor agencies and basic education, observes that although adult education has received more attention in the 1990s than before, literacy projects for adult women tend to be very limited in number and conceptualisation. Most agencies show concern for the low literacy levels of adult women yet few programmes are being implemented through bilateral or multilateral assistance The agencies that have traditionally supported adult literacy programmes for women include SIDA, USAID and UNICEF. Most of UNICEFs literacy work takes place in Africa where it has 18 programme with women as the target population (Stromquist, 1994).
A vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy operates in many rural areas of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and other parts of SSA. The low literacy levels of mothers in Zambia has reduced the interest of parents in educating their children, most particularly their daughters. Girls' poor participation in education then leads to semi-literate school leavers who often lapse back into illiteracy before they become the mothers of the new generation (Kelly, 1994). If this cycle is to be broken, female literacy must be addressed simultaneously with encouraging girls' enrolment in school.
The Lock Jumbish and Bundibugyo projects respectively, are good examples of effective NGO interventions in India and Uganda respectively, to improve both adult female literacy and girls primary school enrolment in different cultural settings. The Lock Jumbish project is a good example of NGO action based on the close integration of non-formal and formal education in the Indian case.
Rajistan is one of the poorest states in India. It has the lowest literacy rate in the country for women (21 %) and in over 90% of its districts, literacy levels are below 40%. At the start of the project, the primary school enrolment rates for boys were estimated to be around 60% and between 25-30% for girls in the administrative blocks covered by the project. The main educational problems in Rajistan are high drop out rates for girls and chronic teacher absenteeism rather than the availability of schools per se. More generally, the caste system strongly discriminates against girls. After the Education for All Conference, a series of programmes were started in India including a national literacy campaign known as the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) which was begun in Kerala in 1990 and this was soon extended to many parts of the country. The Indian government is using these literacy campaigns as a basis for mobilising support for greater school enrolment (John with Lalita, 1994).
In Rajistan, a complementary programme called Lok Jumbish (meaning Peoples' Movement) has been established. The goals of LJ are: (1) to move towards universalisation of primary education (UPE). (The project considers that the indicator of universalisation should be the completion by girls of five years of education); and (2) To change the entire gender situation not only by increasing the ratio of girls in relation to boys but also the way in which men regard girls' education and women's status in society. However, soon after the start of the project (which is co-funded by SIDA and the Rajistan state government), it was soon realised that broader issues concerning social and gender inequalities had to be addressed in the communities to ensure success. As a result, LJ now attempts to mobilise the whole village in order to realise its main educational objectives. In particular, education provision for adults and children is tackled simultaneously, and, like the national literacy campaign, this involves a novel collaboration between government ministries and NGOs (MEDIAnatura, 1995). The management of LJ is in the hands of a completely autonomous and independent body called Lok Jumbish Parishad which is completely decentralised. All decisions are made on the basis of proposals which come from the village while all sanctions are made at the block level. This reduces the usual system of patronage in the establishment of schools. LJ's area of operation is wide; the second phase of the project (which started 1995) will cover 75 blocks with a population of 12 million mainly rural people.
School mapping is done by a method of survey and school location by the village community itself, not by administrators. Registers are kept in every village in which school mapping is done and the name of every child is recorded on a register while their progress is monitored by a village group every six months. If a child does not go to school for three or four days, the teacher must contact the parents. Non-formal education is also provided for child labourers who cannot attend school. LJ is implemented in a diversified manner in response to the particular needs of communities. For example, when girls in villages where there is no school (beyond class 5), were not able to travel to another village, LJ set up inexpensive hostels for the girls so that they could stay in villages which have upper primary schools (Caxton Partnership Conference. 1995).
The assumption behind the project is that girls are not receiving an equal education because of their inferior social status. Consequently, changing attitudes is an integral part of the LJ project, which aims to meet women and girls' practical gender needs in terms of provision of education whilst also addressing their strategic gender needs (i.e. working to overcome their subordination to men and thus trying to change the social order in the long run). LJ has helped to create strong women's groups in every village which are demanding equal rights with men. Targeting of girls and women from scheduled castes allows the use of resources to help remove social inequalities. It is hoped that this raising of consciousness and organisation around gender issues will lead to more positive attitudes towards the education and training of girls and women, particularly in the areas of primary education and adult literacy.
Girls are given both direct and indirect support in order to continue their schooling. If uniforms or accommodation are a problem, these are provided. LJ also seeks to bring about the necessary changes in the content and process of education with regard to curriculum, teacher training and classroom practices. The aim is not only to eliminate stereotyping of women's traditional roles but to help both boys and girls to look at their "respective statuses. Teacher training is an integral part of the project which ensures that there are sufficient numbers of women teachers. These teachers are organised into a 'Women' Forum'. In some of the less developed districts, LJ has set up education centres to educate women in basic literacy in order that they can work as activists in the communities which have high proportion of illiterate women.
LJ has had to invest heavily in school infrastructure, although this consists mainly of repairing existing buildings. The project has also tried to raise the level of training and, therefore, status of all teachers as well as introducing child-centred text books. LJ wishes to raise the quality of educational provision in both formal and non-formal sectors. Of their 1000 non-formal schools, only 2% are said to be 'dysfunctional'.
To date, the impact of the LJ project has been impressive. Since August 1992 there has been a 10% improvement in effective enrolment and a substantial decrease in the drop out rate (Caxton Partnership Conference, 1995). At both the block and village level, LJ is trying to ensure that local organisations which have been created can be sustained and strengthened. LJ is creating a new management system and integrating this with the state management structures in education. The project provides, therefore, an excellent illustration of the potential for NGO/state collaboration in raising the quality of education through community based change and quickly raising girls' and women' participation rates in both formal and non-formal sectors of education. All this is being done in an unpromising social context.
Suitably modified, there is no reason why some of all of the following key features of the LJ project could not be replicated in the Southern African context:
· Effective NGO-state collaboration.
· A focus on improving the quality of education by changing both the content and process of education.
· Local communities closely involved in the design of educational programmes from the outset.
· Flexible management structure.
· Simultaneously addressing the learning needs of girls and women both in and out of school by the provision of formal and non-formal education with flexible hours (this includes the provision of literacy classes).
· Helping to improve the decision making capacities of women by encouraging adult literacy and leadership skills for women in the community.
Action Aid (AA), which was founded in 1972, now works in 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For much of the 1970s and 1980s its education programme focused on building schools in order to improve access. However, this approach was not successful and AA now concentrates on improving the quality of education through curriculum development, inservice teacher training and pre-schools. All this is being done in the context of developing reciprocal relationships with groups in the communities.
Adult literacy is a relatively new area of concern and AA is currently piloting an alternative technology for literacy which it terms Regenerated Freirean Literacy (REFLECT) in Uganda, Bangladesh and El Salvador. AA began research on adult literacy in Uganda in 1992, and its operational project was established a year later in Bundibugyo, (one of the country's 39 political units) in a remote part of western Uganda known as Bwamba. The economy of Bwamba consists of a large number of self-sufficient family farms, operating mainly at subsistence level. Women have a low status and are not allowed to speak before men, access to land comes through men who retain the proceeds of any cash crops (most notably coffee) that the women cultivate (Cottingham, 1995). Four parishes out of ten in the district were chosen for the pilot project on the grounds of need. This area has extremely low levels of school enrolment and high rates of female illiteracy.
The aim of the Bundibugyo project is to target women (as the poorest and least powerful members of the community) with an activity which would empower them to take control of their own development. To this end, the REFLECT methodology draws upon a set of research techniques known as participatory rural appraisal (PRA) in which the learners, rather than having pre-printed materials, develop their own materials through the construction of local maps. These can be household maps, or maps of local crops, tenancy or health problems. A whole range of different maps, calendars, matrixes and diagrams are developed by the literacy facilitators and learners in order to analyse power relations in the community. Each literacy circle then constructs its own material and ends up with a diagnosis of their own community by systematising their own existing knowledge.
The first literacy students were enrolled in January 1994 (the majority being women) with approximately 30 in each class and an age range of between 18 and 80 years. A pre-literacy campaign with a local 'ngoma' group served to raise community awareness at the start of the project. Women were both self-selecting and also positively encouraged to enrol. The learners constructed their own shelters out of spear grass. The 65 facilitators were mostly men because the applicants (nominated by the community) were required to be educated themselves. The initial training lasted ten days and consisted of PRA activities followed by practice with the units - especially the link with literacy and numeracy. The facilitators work officially for the parish councils and they are imbued with respect for the learners. Facilitators form
Parish Groups and participate in fortnightly training sessions to exchange experiences. One week refresher courses are run every six months. Facilitators are supposed to act as 'role models' for the learning groups. Other support from AA consists of visits by fieldworkers.
AA supports the project by funding incentive payments to facilitators, and providing a manual, a set of visual cards, a blackboard and some large pieces of paper for facilitators. Given the lack of reading materials, AA has also gradually fed in the following material: a pamphlet on micro-projects, a book on civic life and a health booklet. These have all been specially written and produced for the new literates by the local literacy coordinator. In addition, learners have been keen to contribute to a newsletter, especially with articles from their oral traditions. Newsletters and production of printed materials within the communities themselves help to promote a more literate environment.
An internal evaluation of REFLECT was completed by Sara Cottingham (an AA staff member) in April 1995. The evaluation sampled 40% of the classes. The project's action points during the year were wide ranging with the strongest areas of change being noted in agriculture and health. Men were reported to be sharing more work with their wives and trying to space children. The evaluation found that the most successful aspect of the literacy programme was its contribution to practical changes in learner's lives. A particular weakness of the REFLECT methodology is that, given that the course is cumulative, there is inadequate provision for sporadic non-attendance. Nonetheless, after one year (with a typical attendance of 100 hours), the average REFLECT learner can read a paragraph aloud and understand it, write a short letter on a familiar topic, and copy and calculate using the four signs. However, the training in numeracy has been less effective (Cottingham, 1995). Sixty-three learners considered themselves very satisfied with the following parts of the course in order of importance: agricultural knowledge 82%, health protection 74%, self-confidence 72%, problem solving 66% and signing official documents 65%. Response differences between men and women were not significant.
In its first year of operation (1994-5), the project achieved relatively high rates of learner retention viz. 67% of the 1,763 originally enrolled. It is expected that most will go on to a post-literacy class. Each literacy group has also shown the capacity for analysing problems collectively. All the groups sampled had taken at least one joint action in addition to numerous individual initiatives, most commonly setting up tree nurseries and schools for young children and organising family planning. Finally, a number of income generating projects have also been started by groups of learners. In general, an increased capacity for collective action has emerged from the REFLECT process.
The project's impact on schooling for children is especially difficult to assess after only a year of operation. A high priority is placed by learners on children's education generally, although the evaluation notes that there are no significant changes in negative attitudes towards the enrolment of girls. However, several communities involved with the scheme have established their own primary schools. Enrolment rates are reported to have risen since the inception of REFLECT (Sarah Cottingham, personal communication).
More generally, the evaluation found that, in a very short time. there appear to be signs of changes in male attitudes towards women's' subservient roles. The conclusion of both male and female learners from the 'gender workload calendar' was that a responsible husband should take on some of the tasks previously assigned to wives. This can be seen as a useful entry point into gender inequality although there is still a long way to go. The raised awareness of learners after only one year of the REFLECT course is extremely positive and if the women come to value education it is likely that this will have spin off effects on their daughter's chances of education in the long run. Clearly, the challenge for this project is to sustain its early progress.
There are strong similarities between Bundibugyo and rural Southern Africa, particularly southern Malawi where female adult literacy rates are extremely low and often about half those of men. Unless the general environment becomes more literate, the danger is that the new literates lose their skills over time. Although it is too early to fully assess the REFLECT programme in Uganda, the apparently substantial gains in terms of raised consciousness concerning vital issues such as health and agriculture and the renewed parental interest in educating their children could bode well for increasing girl's chances of getting an education.
Any kind of replication would involve a prior research project, possibly using Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) to determine levels of need and type of demand for literacy/adult education. This approach could be integrated with the ODA Community Schools Project (CSP) which is based on community mobilisation and raising awareness around the importance of educating girls. The CSP facilities themselves could be used for adult education programmes out of hours, the content being determined by the communities themselves.
In Malawi, women have a very limited involvement in decision making. The CSP project insists upon a certain proportion of the school committee being made up of women (ODA, CPS, 1994). However, there is a strong likelihood that if most of these women remain illiterate, they will be passive observers rather than active participants in the community projects. Literacy is a prerequisite for active political participation and any scheme that intends to promote female education must address wider issues of empowerment as well. It has been pointed out that if more women were enabled to play political roles it would greatly enhance prospects of radical reorientation and extension of education (Brock and Cammish, 1991). The lessons from earlier literacy programmes in Malawi point to the importance of designing programmes which consider the constraints on women's time and prioritise the acquisition of skills for which the learners themselves express a need (Baden and Green, 1994). The focus on providing basic literacy and numeracy skills for women, (leading possibly to income generating activities) could contribute to both girls' education and the process of democratisation.