Constructing An Unbeatable Cover Letter: Introduction

Dominic M. Mutava (Kenya). Lecturer in adult education at the University of Botswana. He has held similar post at the University of Zambia for many years. He has conducted research on adult literacy in both Kenya and Zambia and has published extensively in the field of adult education. One of the most remarkable and laudable achievements of the Fourth World Conference on Adult Education, organized by Unesco and held in Paris from 18 to 29 March 1985, is definitely the passing of the declaration on the right to learn, which incorporates, among other things, the right to be able to read and write. 1 While the right to education has all along been embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 2 it has now become evident that without the right to learn there can never be any meaningful human development. In other words there will be no breakthroughs in agriculture and industry, no progress in community health, and indeed no change in learning conditions and no improvement in standards of living for workers and peasants in cities and villages. In short, the declaration on the right to learn, which was actually long overdue, was one of the most significant contributions the Conference could make towards solving this crucial problem affecting mankind. The Conference also made it very clear that the right to learn is not only an instrument of economic development, but a fundamental human right of universal legitimacy which cannot be confined to one section of humanity. It should not be the exclusive privilege of males, the industrialized countries, the wealthy classes or the young generation who are fortunate enough to acquire school education. 3 It explicitly includes the old and all those illiterate adults who, for whatever reason, have never had the opportunity even to see the inside of a school classroom. It is especially, in creating learning opportunities and conditions for this category of people, which constitutes more than two-thirds of adult mankind, that the validity and effectiveness of this noble declaration will be seen. Paradoxically, while, over the years, the support and momentum against illiteracy have increased, the world over, a recent survey conducted by Unesco indicates that, in absolute terms, it is on the increase and its eradication still elusive. The report also shows that the illiteracy rate is higher in developing countries than in industrialized nations, it is more common in rural areas than in cities and that it is much higher among women than men. 4 As statistical evidence from various countries show even the much proclaimed approach of compulsory primary education has not been an effective instrument in solving this problem. 5 This, among other things, is attributable to: (a) rapid population growth; (b) high drop-out rates in schools; (c) financial and manpower constraints; (d) absence of an accurate assessment of the magnitude and dimensions of illiteracy in different socio-political and cultural settings; and (e) above all to ineffective strategies and inappropriate approaches, which have failed lamentably to bring about universal literacy and effectively sustain it. Against this background, the main purpose of this article is to take stock and make a critical analysis of what Zambia has achieved in the field of adult literacy training from 1945 to 1986, and to suggest an alternative approach, which we consider as being simple, appropriate, manageable, practical, more effective but less costly and faster in eradicating illiteracy in communities: the integrated small-scale approach (ISSA). It must be pointed out from the outset that the views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department for Social Development or that of the Ministry of Labour and Social Services. The author, however, has had the privilege of participating in the Department’s training programmes, as a consultant for two years (1984-86). Literacy defined At present there is no single, universally accepted definition of literacy. In some countries persons are considered literate if they are able to sign their names, while in others high-school graduates are considered still illiterate. In its effort to standardize educational statistics, Unesco describes as literate ‘a person who, with understanding, can both read and write a short simple statement in his/her everyday life’. This definition, though it has been adapted by several countries, does not seem to throw much light on to the problem, because it does not specify what actually constitutes ‘a short simple statement’. For the purpose of this discussion, however, I would like to agree with Bhola, that literacy, in its basics, is the knowledge and skills in reading and writing that enable a person to engage effectively in all those activities in which literacy is normally assumed in his or her culture or group. 6 Such activities can include reading and writing letters within the family; locating streets, buildings; signing cheques; observing danger warnings in the streets and at work; reading a newspaper to keep up with current happenings and obtain information; keeping records; reading ‘do-it-yourself’ books and booklets on better living, better foods, better ways of farming, religious pamphlets, etc. Clarification of concepts ‘Campaign’, ‘programme’ and ‘projects’ are three common concepts used by literacy workers worldwide to describe their activities. It is, therefore, most fitting at this stage of our discussion to take a closer look at each one of these concepts and to relate them to the Zambian situation. A literacy campaign is an organized large-scale series of activities, intensely focused on a set of objectives to be achieved within some predetermined period of time. It has about it a sense of urgency and combativeness and it is described as politically hot, in the sense that it is the preoccupation of the whole nation at that particular point of its history. It is normally planned as an expedition or a crusade and all the available resources of a given nation are set at its beck and call should the need arise. A campaign makes the business of eradicating illiteracy unusual. 7 Although there has been a loud call for a literacy campaign, Zambia has never launched one. A programme is considered a planned and systematic literacy activity. It could be both large scale and time bound just like a campaign but it is said to be politically cool, in the sense that it is just another development endeavour arousing no political passions; urgent but without dash and a certain impatience. It is just one of the many most important tasks that a nation must accomplish. It is, thus, business as usual. 8 This is the kind of literacy undertaking Zambia has been involved in since 1945. A literacy project, on the other hand, is considered a small-scale programme with its objectives narrowly defined within a large programme of development and confined to a small geographical area or an economic sector. 9 In Zambia literacy projects have been conducted mainly by churches and other nongovernmental organizations. The kind of literacy activity undertaken by a given country depends on the availability of financial resources, manpower, magnitude of the problem and the political will prevailing within a given country, though the tendency in many occasions is to call for nothing short of a campaigns. 10 Literacy training approaches There are three main approaches to adult literacy training, which include a model by Laubach, one by Paulo Freire and the ‘functional literacy’ model proclaimed by Unesco. 11 The three approaches have been extensively used in various parts of the world, Zambia included. THE LAUBACH APPROACH This approach is attributed to the American missionary, Frank Laubach, and his son Robert S. Laubach. The Laubach approach, which is religiously oriented, is widely referred to as an ‘each one teach one’ method because of its functional tutorial approach to information delivery which stresses teaching on a personal basis. 12 Frank Laubach began his literacy work in 1929 in the Philippines and for some time his approach was used in literacy campaigns in over 96 countries involving some 274 languages. The method is based on teaching of phonetics or word sounds. Laubach looked for key words in whatever language he was using. By mixing syllables in the key words and using other vowels new words were created and he was able to generate the vocabulary that he would use with illiterates. In addition to the key words Laubach introduced illustrations. He began to associate the initial letter in a word with the shape of an object. For, example, letter ‘K’ was associated with a man kicking and letter ‘S’ was associated with the shape of a snake wriggling. The next step in this letter/shape association was to write the letter on the shape of the object. The major problem that this approach faced was one of finding objects with a similar shape to letters. Laubach relied on skilled artists to draw shapes of objects. He drew charts which were divided into four columns. Column 1 was a picture; Column 2 a picture plus a letter; Column 3 the name of the pictured object and below it the first letter of the word; and Column 4 a review of letters. In this way and by use of the chart the student is enabled to learn the syllables. The main advantages of this approach, which is still widely used in teaching adults to read, include the following: (a) the fact that the learner is taught on a one-to-one basis and continues to teach someone else, reinforcing his or her original learning experience; (b) the speed with which an adult learns to read his or her own spoken language; and (c) the ability to reach many people. Frank Laubach estimated that with this approach, during the first year 8 per cent of the population would become literate; 16 per cent in the second year; 32 per cent in the third year; 64 per cent in the fourth year and, in the fifth year, a phenomenal 128 per cent, making up for the population growth in the five-year period. At this rate illiteracy could be overcome in five years. 13 The main limitation of this approach lies in its assumption that both the learner and the teacher will be motivated enough to continue learning and teaching. As we shall see, later, this approach was introduced in Zambia by Dr Laubach personally shortly after the Second World War and prevailed until after independence in 1971 when functional literacy was introduced. The programme worked well on the Copperbelt but was less successful in the rural areas apparently due to the scattered nature of the population and also due to the fact that Zambians tended to prefer learning in groups and did not seem to appreciate being taught by fellow learners whom they thought were not really qualified to teach. THE FREIRE APPROACH This approach, sometimes called the psycho-social method of teaching illiterates was initially introduced in Brazil by Paulo Freire in 1963. 14 As an adult educator, philosopher and politician whose ideas and practices have brought revolutionary thinking in the field of adult education, Freire disapproves of any educational approach that places the teacher in a ‘feeding’ position giving students information and knowledge. He rather encourages students’ active participation and reflection on their problems. He also encourages the adult student to stand back and look at himself and reality. Freire’s approach of communication with illiterate adults is based on the principles of liberation and consciousness raising and focuses on small groups which become centres of culture and discussions. The following are the steps which he follows, in brief: The adult educator approaches the community to find out what concerns they have in their daily lives. Through informal contacts, key vocabulary based on what people are concerned with is recorded. Generative words or themes are then identified. The words are then coded in form of pictures or drawings. In a pre-literacy meeting drawings and/or pictures are used as basis for discussions. In the cultural centres discussions cover quite a wide spectrum of issues. The main purpose of this exercise is to enable the illiterate adult to distinguish between nature, which cannot be changed and culture which can be changed. After discussing each picture adults become motivated to learn to read and write what they have discussed. Pictures and words are then projected in form of slides. The words are then shown alone apart from the picture. Thereafter the words are divided into syllables and into a phonemic family. The selection of the key words is done with great care so that they: (a) are familiar and meaningful; (b) generate many visual images and arouse strong feelings, (c) contain all phonemes; (d) represent objects; and (e) are more abstract for later lessons. After the class meeting, participants go home and continue with word creation. Their level of consciousness develops tremendously because they engage themselves in the understanding of their own realities and situations. Paulo Freire discovered that through this approach illiterate adults are able to read and write in forty-five days. In addition, they are able to understand the social and economic contradictions within their own communities. The major strength of this approach is the emotional power generated as group ideas are discussed. However, some aspects of the design, such as follow-up, are vague. Furthermore, this approach does not offer reinforcement to the neo-literate. It seems to disregard the support from the community and the question of motivation or drive to join the cultural centres. In Zambia this approach has only been used sporadically by non-governmental organizations and international agencies and there are at the moment no signs of it being applied on a large scale in the near future. THE FUNCTIONAL LITERACY APPROACH This approach was initially introduced by Unesco and has been popularized by Professor Harbans Bhola, who sees literacy as an instrument of modernization and functional literacy as an approach to social and economic change. 15 According to Unesco and Dr Bhola, functional literacy should include more than just mere reading, writing and numeracy. It includes information concerning main economic activities and other information about related needs. Literacy training programmes, therefore, must impart not only reading, writing and numeracy but professional and technical knowledge as well, which can enable adults to participate fully in economic, civic and social life. It has been observed, however, that the approach tends to over-emphasize the vocational aspect of the programme thereby pushing the literacy and numeracy aspects to the periphery. As this is the approach which has been adapted by the Zambian Government and has been in use since 1971, we shall devote some time analysing and discussing its application and effects in the following section of our discussion. Historical overview of adult literacy training in Zambia BEFORE INDEPENDENCE Although the history of literacy work in Zambia actually dates back to the introduction of Western culture and civilization to the then Northern Rhodesia, 16 there were virtually no significant attempts to eradicate illiteracy on a wide scale until 1945, when Mrs Hope Hay of Mindolo Mission Station, at Kitwe, initiated the first experiments in adult literacy techniques. The venture, which later became a national pilot scheme, started among the miners at Mindolo Compound at Kitwe. 17 Within a period of eleven months a total of 752 miners had learned how to read and write in the vernacular. Inspired by this success Mrs Hay decided to extend her work to other areas and, by 1946, a phenomenal number of 10,837 people had become literate, over 4,000 of whom lived in the rural areas. 18 The organizational aspect of the scheme is, perhaps, worth taking a close look at. The programme was organized under the slogan ‘Wake up!’, or Shibukeni! as it was known in Bemba. Mrs Hay first did a survey to determine the extent of illiteracy in an area. There were no formal classes; anyone wishing to learn found his own teacher and arranged to be taught at a time and place convenient to himself as well as the teacher. Mindolo Mission Station was responsible for the production and sale of the necessary primers. The station also trained and employed supervisors whose duty was to visit the townships to assist individual students and their teachers. The programme was mainly geared to facilitating the teaching and assimilation of Christianity and as such was limited to teaching the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). The year 1948 was significant in the history of adult literacy training in Zambia. It was the year in which Dr Frank C. Laubach visited Northern Rhodesia to advise on how to produce primers and help train literacy instructors. 19 He taught teachers from the Jeans Teacher Training Institute, drawn from each of the eight provinces, how to organize mass literacy at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation, Kitwe. These were supposed to spearhead the mass literacy work in their respective provinces. In co-operation with the Foundation, Dr Laubach was also able to start some literacy classes on the Copperbelt, and at Munali he trained secondary-school students on the use of the ‘each one teach one’ approach and for a brief period sent them out to the rural areas to teach illiterates. 20 Although no literacy campaign was launched at that time, as Dr Laubach and others would have liked, some literacy projects were started here and there by church groups, native authorities and interested individuals with some support from the colonial government. Direct involvement of the colonial government in eradication of illiteracy was very limited and on most cases depended very much on the personal initiative and interest of government officials. 21 As such a real wide-scale literacy programme never took place until after Zambia became independent in 1964. AFTER INDEPENDENCE Serious discussion on literacy work in a national context, actually, started as early as 1963 when a Unesco mission visited the country. The mission, inter alia, recommended the introduction of literacy work in English, the implementation of the programme by the then Department of Community Development, and the use of Laubach’s approach of ‘each one teach one’. It was estimated then that over 67 per cent of the adult population aged 21 and over were illiterate. 22 The basic literacy programme In an attempt to provide basic education to the bulk of the population and in line with the Unesco Commission’s recommendations, a basic literacy programme, aimed at teaching adults the three Rs, was started in May 1964. The programme was first introduced on experimental basis in Lusaka, Kabwe and Mansa, and in 1966 it was extended to all the provinces. 23 The new programme did not continue with the ‘each one teach one’ as introduced by Laubach. 24 Its organization and approach, however, was in theory similar to the organization previously adapted by Mrs Hope Hay, in the sense that the communities and groups requiring literacy classes were expected to find a volunteer teacher and agree on the meeting time and place. The government was only to provide literacy officers (supervisors), reading and writing materials, and help in training the volunteer instructors selected by the groups. Educated members of the community were encouraged to volunteer to teach their relatives and neighbours. The Department of Community Development was given the overall responsibility for the administration of the programme in the provinces, while the urban councils and municipal and township councils were assigned the administrative and supervisory responsibilities over literacy programmes in areas directly under their jurisdiction. As we shall see later this arrangement has prevailed until the present. In terms of figures, as Table 1 shows, quite a large number of illiterate adults participated in the programme which even went to the extent of involving school pupils and students as part-time teachers and making use of the radio. Enrolments rapidly increased from 4,564 in 1966, when the programme was launched, to 17,385 in 1970, when it was evaluated and functional literacy recommended. However, despite the impressive enrolments the programme experienced a considerable amount of problems, some of which related to its administration and organization while others were attributed to participants. Among the problems emanating from the administration and organization of the programme were: lack of field supervision; lack of interest among some officers; lack of transport; problems of remunerating teachers; lack of relevant instructional materials; lack of adequate delivery system; lack of linkage between development goals and literacy objectives; etc. Problems attributable to students included a high drop-out rate, failure to pay fees, time for meetings inconvenienced some participants, and male participants did not want to show their ignorance by learning alongside women. TABLE 1. Enrolment figures for basic literacy, 1966-84 Year Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Services, Department of Social Development, 1985. The basic literacy programme lasted only up to 1971 when it was replaced by the functional literacy programme. It was, however, maintained by urban district councils and prisons. FUNCTIONAL LITERACY The idea of introducing a functional literacy programme was born out of the recommendation by the World Conference of Ministers of Education, held in Tehran in September 1965. 25 The Conference disapproved of the traditional methods of teaching literacy and numeracy to adults and recommended functional literacy as a better approach to tackle the problem of illiteracy. Following that conference, Zambia requested Unesco, in 1967, to send an expert to advise the government on the sectors of the economy best suited for the new approach. The expert arrived in the country in May 1969. After evaluating the then existing basic literacy programme the expert recommended introduction of a work-oriented literacy scheme which was approved by the government. A pilot functional-literacy project was launched in Central and Southern Provinces. The areas selected for the pilot project consisted of twenty-five centres of which twelve were in Central Province and thirteen in Southern Province. The target population comprised of 3,000 adult illiterates. These were mostly subsistence farmers producing an average of five bags of maize on one hectare. Maize was chosen as the core subject of teaching and a primer dealing with improved methods of maize production was prepared with the help of the Department of Agriculture. The programme was also supported by radio broadcasts and studio lessons. After theory was taught in the class, students were taken on the demonstration plot next to their class to practise what they had learned. Teachers were recruited from among local farmers with at least seven years of education who were paid an average of 6 kwachas per month. Students were expected to pay a fee of 2 kwachas in lieu of reading material (at that time 1 kwacha was equivalent to 1 US dollar). The villages served by the literacy centres were within reach of the agriculture stations and farmers’ training centres. They also had an easy access to the rural health centres. Each literacy centre was managed by a literacy officer. The pilot project lasted for sixteen months. Students who completed the course of instruction and passed the qualifying test were provided with maize seeds, fertilizers and insecticides to cover a piece of land of 4,000 m 2. After the harvest in May/June 1972, the results showed that the farmers had produced an average of fifteen bags of maize per hectare. This was an increase, in the number of bags per hectare, of approximately 300 per cent. The exercise having succeeded so well in the two provinces, during the pilot project, the government directed, in 1973, that the new approach should be extended to other provinces in stages. Accordingly, starting from 1974 to 1977 the programme was gradually extended to all the provinces of the country. Functional literacy teaching approach The duration of the functional literacy course is two years. This is divided into two stages. Stage I begins in March of each year. At the beginning of each class participants are encouraged to form a class committee whose members keep rotating. The main purpose of the class committee is to help the teacher to solve the problem of absenteeism and also to help participants to develop a good learning atmosphere in and outside the class. Apart from the class committee the literacy worker also encourages the formation of a local committee composed of local prominent people like the local village headman, a headmaster from a nearby school, a religious leader, a medical assistant, a farmer, etc. Local literacy committees are supposed to advise the learners on the need to become literate; to assist elderly participants in acquiring learning materials and above all to advise both the class committee and the literacy worker on how the class can be conducted smoothly. Classes meet three times a week for lessons of two hours’ duration. Each literacy worker is expected to take two literacy classes of twenty-five students each. Apart from reading, writing and arithmetic, students hold demonstrations on the class plot adjacent to each classroom. There, students practise planting and fertilization using artificial materials. The teaching methods in use vary from global or analytic to synthetic or formalistic. Both extremes are applied. The teacher introduces his subject by a discussion as stipulated in the primer. Flip-charts, chalkboard and primer reading followed by writing in exercise books, singing and drama are also used in addition to the practical lessons in the field. After passing the qualifying test, which is taken after one year, participants are allowed to begin planting on their individual maize plots with the assistance of their instructor and an agricultural assistant. By this time students meet only once a week, usually to listen to the radio broadcast lessons which are meant to supplement the instruction provided by the literacy personnel. These weekly radio programmes are prepared by the Department of Social Development and are broadcast in the seven official languages. Each programme lasts between fifteen and thirty minutes. Stage II classes run from March to November each year. At this stage more emphasis is put on combining theory and practice. Students meet once a week for two hours. Subjects dealing with harvesting, marketing and storage are taught. Participants also receive instructions on how to save for the next agricultural season. In November each year final tests are held. Test papers are prepared by the office of the Commissioner for Social Development in conjunction with the field staff. Those who qualify are awarded certificates of proficiency and are advised to enrol themselves in Grade 5 of the adult primary-education programmes run by the Department of Continuing Education of the Ministry of General Education and Culture. Quite a large number of adult literacy graduates heed this advice and enrol themselves in such programmes. Those who do not succeed in the final tests are supposed to be given letters of encouragement and advised to continue learning and to sit the same test the following year. After completing Stage II, participants are expected to have acquired knowledge which is equivalent to that of Grade 4 level in the formal system, and those who opt to join the evening adult-education classes are taken on at Grade 5 level. As to the agricultural aspect, participants are expected to continue on their own. They receive occasional visits from village-level workers who advise and encourage them to read follow-up books from the rural library centres. Available evidence indicates that, in places where rural libraries are available, a large number of neo-literates do actually utilize the facilities to maintain and improve their reading skills. Literacy graduates also receive further instruction on agriculture, health, nutrition and other relevant subjects through radio broadcasts and local newspapers produced in local languages at the provincial headquarters. Organization of the functional literacy programme The Department of Social Development, which is in charge of the programme, is headed by a commissioner who is assisted by professional staff based at national, provincial and district levels, with the broad base of the pyramid consisting of 341 village-level workers known as social development assistants. It is these social development assistants who are supposed to organize and teach illiterate adults how to read and write. The staff at the national level are responsible for formulating the policy in conjunction with the provincial-level staff. They are also supposed to link the activities of the department with the United Nations and other international agencies. The provincial staff are responsible for planning the programmes in their provinces, and link their work with international organizations operating within their areas. They represent the department on the Provincial Development Council and are supposed to advice the province-based permanent secretary on matters that affect literacy work. They are the secretaries of the provincial literacy co-ordinating committees. The district staff have the responsibility of supervising literacy work within the district. They advise the District Executive Secretary on matters pertaining to literacy work. They also sit on district council meetings and are supposed to be the secretaries of the District Literacy Co-ordinating Committees, As mentioned above the social development assistant in the village is in charge of teaching illiterates and undertakes all the functions that can enhance advancement and promotion of literacy programme within a 16-kilometre radius from the subcentre in which he is based. Fig. 1. Structure chart. Administrative structure of the programme In order to ensure smooth running of the programme, several committees are usually formed at various levels and, apparently, play a vital role in facilitating co-ordination and/or co-operation among different agents (see Fig. 1). At the national level there is a National Steering Committee which is always chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Services or his nominee. This committee comprises of sixteen members including the Directors of Agriculture; Veterinary Services; Co-operatives and Marketing; and Land and Settlement. It also has representatives from the Ministries of Education, Health and Food, and the Nutrition Commission as well as from the University of Zambia. At the provincial level there are the Provincial Advisory Committees. These committees, which are normally chaired by the respective Provincial Permanent Secretaries, seem to be more functional than the National Steering Committee, due to the fact that most of its members are exposed to the problems at stake than their counterparts at the national level. Each Provincial Advisory Committee has ten members which include the Provincial Social Development Officer, Provincial Agricultural Officer, Provincial Co-operative Officer, Provincial Veterinary Officer, Provincial Medical Officer, Provincial Marketing Officer and Provincial Chief Education Officer. The District Advisory Committee exists at the district level and follows the structure of the Provincial Advisory Committee in its composition of members. The District Secretary is normally the chairman of this committee with the Assistant Social Development Officer as the convener. There is also a similar committee at the area level usually referred to as the Ward Advisory Committee which is normally chaired by the elected councillor of the ward. At the village level there is then the Local Literacy Committee. A look at the functional literacy results As indicated in Table 2, the number of persons who have passed through and benefited from the functional literacy programme since its inception in 1971 is estimated to be just over 54,000. The programme has gained popularity over basic literacy because of its direct application to real-life situations, though, like basic literacy, enrolment figures reflect a dominance of female participants. The male ratio was roughly 1:4. It must be pointed out, however, that enrolment figures from non-governmental organizations, companies and churches are not reflected in official statistics. Major operational constraints Year Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Services, Department of Social Development, 1985. In spite of the popularity the programme has enjoyed since its inception, there has been quite a number of constraints which seem to have affected its operation: First, it is conducted by social development assistants performing twenty other tasks or I duties. Consequently, literacy work does not seem to receive the necessary attention it requires. Second, the withdrawal of government incentives due to the crippling economic situation has left social development assistants with no other incentive to rekindle the flagging motivation among prospective participants. 26 Most of them do not appear to perceive literacy as necessary for their own development without incentives. It would appear, therefore, that the introduction of incentives in the form of agricultural inputs at the initial stage and their withdrawal later has had negative effects on the programme. Third, there is a lack of co-ordination mainly due to transport and personnel problems. Fourth, there is a twofold financial problem, namely decreasing government allocation and the escalating costs of goods and services which have reduced the purchasing power of the already reduced allocations. Fifth, the shortage or non-availability of literacy materials such as primers, follow-up books, charts, posters and other forms of stationery, has had an adverse effect on the literacy programmes. This problem is a byproduct of the above-mentioned financial problem. Sixth, ‘placement of the literacy programme within the Department of Social Development gave literacy work a peripheral position in educational planning. The link between literacy work and formal education has been tenous because literacy seems to have become synonymous with agricultural extension’. 27 Finally, a shortage of radio sets for new groups and to replace old ones has had adverse effects upon the literacy programme. These are but a few of the problems and constraints which the functional literacy programme has encountered over the years. Definitely they have had some impact on the rate at which the programme has been operating. Nevertheless, as we shall see below, the major constraint which has contributed to the slow pace seems to be the approach itself. A new strategy: the integrated small-scale approach As indicated earlier it appears that a quick and effective strategy to combat illiteracy, especially among the adult population, has not been forthcoming. As a matter of fact, the present rate of illiteracy, the world over, evokes a strange feeling of perplexity, in the sense that while the support and momentum against it have increased tremendously it is now evident that, in absolute terms, illiteracy is on the increase and its eradication still elusive. Figures show that the number of illiterates, worldwide, has increased from 700 million in 1950, to 814 million in 1980, and is expected to be 884 million by the turn of the century. 28 Zambia, of course, has not been exempted from this current trend 01 events. As a matter of fact, although the rate 01 illiteracy, in the country, dropped from 67 per cent at independence to about 41.2 per cent in 1980, 29 in absolute terms the number of illiterates increased from as low as 1.2 million to nearly 3 million in the same period. 30 Needless to point out here that, given the escalating population growth and the absence of a corresponding increase in the provision of educational facilities, the figures are, of course, much higher now than they were in 1980, and will definitely continue to rise unless, of course, a more effective approach to combating the problem is introduced. To this effect, therefore, we are suggesting an integrated small-scale approach (ISSA), one that is multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral with all the activities planned and executed at the community level. The question of integration at the community level is absolutely vital because it has been observed that at the moment there are far too many organizations, institutions, agencies, companies and even individuals fighting for the same communities and all trying to bring or enhance development. As the old adage goes: ‘Where two or more bulls are fighting only the grass suffers.’ Instead of fighting, therefore, ISSA advocates closer co-operation and coordination between all instructions, organizations, agencies, business houses, churches, political institutions, trade unions, and even individuals operating in a given village or community, whether urban or rural. They should pool their efforts to combat illiteracy, which has been described by many as a barrier to development. This we believe is doing the first thing first. As the situation is at the moment, the entire responsibility of eradicating illiteracy has been placed on the public sector, specifically on a very small Department of Social Development with only 314 active literacy instructors. From 1966 to 1986, the period during which Zambia has been involved in wide-scale literacy activities, the Department has only been able to bring literacy to some 170,000 adults. Viewed against the background of financial, personnel and other constraints, mentioned above, this might appear to be a notable contribution. But viewed against the total magnitude of the problem it is but a drop in the ocean, and there is an inclination to conclude that without a change of approach it is unrealistic to even think of the Department single-handedly combating the scourge of illiteracy and its attendant problems in this century. If the Department were to do it alone, each one of its 314 literacy instructors would be required to make a total of 88,317 adults literate. This, of course, in an unbeatable task given the fact that in the last twenty years each one of them, statistically, has only been able to make 541 adults literate at the rate of 27 per year. The Community on the other hand has been selected as the focal and starting point for planning and executing all literacy activities in this approach (ISSA) for various reasons. In the first place, it has been observed that all illiterates live in communities. In this case therefore, ISSA takes the bull by the horns by attacking the problem right where it is rampant. Secondly, eradicating illiteracy at the village/community level is like solving the world’s problem by taking care of one small problem at a time. And, thirdly, it is much easier to plan and implement a small-scale literacy programme within the boundaries of a community than a district or province. ISSA, in addition, places a good deal of emphasis on decentralization of efforts to the effect that implementation of all the activities rest upon the leadership at the lowest level, which in many ways has proved more successful in bringing about integration and change than the leadership at the upper strata. Decentralization in this case is seen as a means of facilitating participation of the beneficiaries of the programmes in the preparation and implementation of those efforts that concern them and enables grassroot planners to attach appropriate emphasis to the problems peculiar to a specific community. This entails delegation of power in appointing instructors, organizing their training, selecting suitable teaching and learning materials, making changes in learning programmes, and ensures community support and resources for the formation and continuance of literacy classes at the local level. On the other hand ‘for illiterates to see illiteracy as a necessary educational activity for national development there is a need to problematize illiteracy so that those affected by it can start looking at illiteracy as an obstacle to personal and national development, a disease which needs to be cured’. 31 ISSA, as such, is a decentralized strategy which encourages communities to take full responsibility for eradicating illiteracy within their boundaries. This is in accordance with the government’s policy of decentralization, which stipulates that the problems of a community should first and foremost be attended to by the community itself. In addition ISSA entails mobilization of those members of a community who can read and write to teach those without such skills. To this effect literates are encouraged to teach their illiterate neighbours, children to teach their illiterate parents, husbands to teach their illiterate wives and vice versa, relatives to teach their illiterate relatives and friends. This, in practical terms, is implementing humanist principles and at the same time utilizing the available local resources to achieve what is required. It is also a way of constructing a literacy programme, a programme of the people by the people and this, in essence, is what self-reliance is all about. Furthermore, the integrated small-scale approach involves both governmental and nongovernmental institutions, which otherwise have been left out, in the war against illiteracy. To this effect employers are encouraged to teach their illiterate employees, churches to teach their illiterate congregation members, unions, clubs, organizations, institutions and leagues to teach their illiterate members, and schools, colleges and universities to teach their illiterate neighbourhoods, and so forth. Elsewhere it has been suggested that it might be necessary to make illiteracy work obligatory among companies, in the sense that they would be required to invest in illiteracy eradication and make work and study compulsory for all gainfully employed illiterates. We would like to suggest here that this could be extended to all institutions and organizations. In addition we would suggest that institutions of learning whose graduates are supposed to work with illiterates should be required to make it obligatory for each student to make at least one person literate before he/she is allowed to graduate. This we believe would show the seriousness which the government attaches to this problem, and would also be in line with the self-reliance philosophy. Those who propound the argument that ISSA is a fragmentation of efforts should ponder seriously the fact that a large-scale approach requires intensive use of available resources. The Cuban programme, for example, cost some $52 million which was roughly $73 per literate person. Needless to point out here that with the economic situation prevailing in Zambia, today this might be almost impossible. In addition, experiences from all the past large-scale campaigns have shown that the larger the campaign the more insurmountable difficulties grew in respect of functional training of literacy personnel, production of materials in meaningful qualities, transport, and so on. ISSA does not propose a change in organizational structure. The existing National Steering Committee could continue to co-ordinate all the plans and make sure that the programme is linked with other development programmes. The Provincial Advisory Committee could continue to co-ordinate and synchronize the efforts at the provincial level while the District Advisory Committee could do the same at its own level. The ward advisory and local literacy committee could continue to function in the same manner. We however, suggest a combination of basic literacy, which is still practised in the urban areas, and functional literacy. This could be done in two stages. Stage I could concentrate on teaching literacy and numeracy skills while Stage II could introduce functional skills. This would not only give the learners something to look forward to but also enhance motivation and the acquired skills as the learners are able to practise them. We suggest that this should first be carried out on experimental basis in a few communities. The Department of Social Development has a significant role to play in this approach, as it would be required to stipulate for those institutions and agencies a clear framework of operation so as to avoid overlapping of responsibilities and operations. The Department would also be responsible for training the volunteer literacy instructors, supplying reading materials and advising all the other institutions, agencies and organizations. Given the availability of literates and the national commitment coupled with the national ideology of humanism, the commitment to self-reliance and decentralization, the approach suggested here does not require foreign exchange, additional funds or transport, merely an increased amount of dedication and commitment. STARTING AN INTEGRATED SMALL-SCALE LITERACY PROJECT One major reason why many literacy training programmes fail is lack of community support. As a matter of fact there seems to be a direct correlation between community support of a programme and its success. To gain the support of the community one needs, first of all, to win the support and confidence of community leaders. In other words the campaign for community support begins with the campaign to win over leaders. This needs to be on a one-to-one basis with programme personnel meeting with community power brokers to discuss the dangers of illiteracy and the actual benefit the community can derive from the programme. The idea is to get the support of the entire leadership of the community starting from the area governor down to the ward chairman. Opinion leaders and officials from nongovernmental institutions should also be requested to render support. They should all be made to understand that illiteracy is a very costly national problem which requires concerted efforts from everyone. It is, therefore, the solemn duty of the entire community leadership whether in government or in the private sector to play a significant role in freeing the country from illiteracy. After gaining the support of the leaders, the next step is to solicit the support and commitment of all institutions, organizations and agencies operating in the community. These include churches, schools, colleges, the Party, the Women’s League, the Youth League, voluntary organizations, trade unions, employers’ federations, societies and associations, clubs, co-operatives, hospitals, prisons, etc. This is very crucial because later one will have to rely on each one of these to conduct an integrated small-scale literacy programme. Each one of these should be encouraged to start literacy classes. It must, however, be remembered that support for a programme comes when it is successful. In other words, nothing succeeds and advertises a programme like success. STEPS IN CONDUCTING AN INTEGRATED SMALL-SCALE LITERACY PROJECT The following steps are suggested for conducting an integrated small-scale literacy training programme. 1. Identify a small community of about 50-100 inhabitants, possibly a ward. 2. Conduct a thorough community profile survey to identify, among other things: (a) level of development; (b) human and material resources; (c) schools and other institutions; (d) level of education; (e) extent of illiteracy, if possible get the actual figures; (f) leaderships; and (g) extension and development workers in the community. 3. Campaign for the support and approval of leaders in the community. 4. Solicit for the support of all institutions, organizations and agencies operating in that community. 5. Mobilize the public. Make the general public aware of the problems, the dangers, benefits and your intensions. Solicit for their support. 6. Recruit and train teachers. If possible try to volunteer. 7. Recruit participants and launch the programme. Once the programme is launched use strategies and tactics to retain your participants. 8. Evaluate. If you have various programmes running in different wards, initiate some sort of competition where by they compete with one another. This competition can be extended to include churches, companies, institutions, departments, villages, families, schools, clubs, etc. This mass attack on illiteracy both within and across communities in a small but effective manner is what development from the bottom or grass-roots is all about. With ISSA there is ample hope that Zambia can be freed from illiteracy within a period not exceeding five years. Notes 15. Ibid., p. 85. 16. Katati, ‘Policy Implementation with Special Reference to Adult Literacy’, p. 2, unpublished paper presented at Workshop for Writers and Adult Literacy Workers, Monze, 4-14 December 1985. 17. P. D. Snelson, 18. Ibid. 19. M. Imakando, ‘The History of Literacy Work in Zambia’, p. 1, unpublished paper presented at a Seminar for Literacy Workers, 15-19 June 1985. 20. Ibid. 21. D. C. Mulenga and D. M. Mwansa, ‘The Impact of population Growth on Adult Literacy Programme in Zambia’, p. 6, unpublished paper presented at the 1980 Census of Population Conference, 25-30 November 1985. 22. J. Mwanakatwe, 23. Imakando, op. cit., pp. 2-3. 24. Ibid., p. 3.

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Constructing an Unbeatable Cover Letter: Introduction

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