Northern Uganda is home to the country’s lowest literacy rates. Most adults are illiterate due to schooling disrupted by conflict, putting both them and their children at a disadvantage. While there are ostensibly a few government-run adult education centers that are supposed to cater to their needs, they mostly rely on volunteers or highly underpaid facilitators and are often barely functional. Many in rural Acholi also have poor vision or eye diseases that have gone undiagnosed and uncorrected, making it even harder to learn.
AWR is the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda. We operate over 50 centers in remote areas designed to help people acquire functional adult literacy (FAL): a basic level of reading, writing and calculation skills that enables them to meet daily challenges.
Our centers are far more than just places to learn to read, however. Utilizing a teaching methodology that develops literacy through the discussion of real-life local problems, AWR centers have become strong community hubs where women come together to identify the social issues facing their villages and the steps they can take to solve them.
AWR also runs mobile eye clinics at our centers that serve students and other local residents alike.
Our adult literacy program is based on REFLECT (Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques), a low-cost, innovative approach to adult learning and social change that combines the theories of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire with participatory methodologies.
In this approach, there are no textbooks. Instead, students create their own learning materials, generating a mix of graphics and phrases related to a local issue they wish to discuss. Classes thus embed the habit of reading within a practical context, developing literacy at the same time as fostering an active dialogue about a particular problem.
Women are often inspired by these discussions to take action themselves to resolve them. As a result of their coursework, AWR literacy center students have come together to repair local boreholes, open new roads, and even start new marketplaces or community schools in areas so remote they were previously without, among other initiatives.
During local election season, students tend to discuss voter’s rights and election processes. Upon discovering that there are few trustworthy candidates, dozens have historically decided to run for office themselves – a tangible measure of how classes have helped increase their sense of self-esteem and self-empowerment. In the most recent 2021 election cycle, 57 of our students were inspired to run for local office, and 26 of them won.
More information about the REFLECT method can be found in this training manual here.