The A to Z of independence
Adult literacy programmes in Malawi face a multitude of challenges. Even ascertaining literacy levels in the country is fraught with difficulty, as much of the testing is subjective. Inadequate training for tutors, high turnover of participants, and a lack of continuing education for those who become literate are other major problems.
Malawi is also blighted by HIV-Aids and more than half the population lives below the poverty line. It is therefore not easy to convince people that literacy should be a major concern. However, as Chris Dzimadzi told the NRDC International Conference, one programme, Sustainable Socio Economic Empowerment for Poverty Reduction (SSEEP), is addressing the country's literacy problems. SSEEP uses Paulo Freire's Reflect methodology, which places the learner at the centre of their own learning process.
Adults in the SSEEP literacy classes discuss the major issues affecting their lives, prioritise the challenges and develop action points. This process not only helps people to read and write, but encourages them to find solutions to problems rather than waiting for donors or government help. 'People need to be empowered socioeconomically before acquiring literacy skills,' said Dzimadzi.
Since 2004, 370 Reflect circles have been established in 12 districts. By collaborating with donors, farming methods have been improved and income-earning activities ranging from beekeeping to soap-making have been started. A literacy policy has been finalised, training manuals have been written and post-literacy materials have been developed. The identification by a community of its problems is 'the beginning of a long journey' towards literacy, said Dzimadzi. It is hoped that the programme will be extended beyond its planned end date in 2007, so that many more can embark on this journey.
Chris Dzimadzi's conference presentation can be found at www.nrdc.org.uk