Literacy Training Course for Africans
SIL Intermediate Course for African leaders in Literacy and Education – endorsed by UNESCO
SIL provides high caliber training for prospective field workers, for example, instruction in Literacy Program Planning and Literacy Materials Development. In recent years, requests have increased for SIL to provide similar high-level training on site for Africans who have some grassroots experience in literacy and education. Consequently a three- phase Intermediate Literacy Course (ILC) was developed and conducted at the Ruiru Training Centre near Nairobi, Kenya. Africans from five different countries, each speaking their own language, enthusiastically participated in the course.
In the words of the ILC Academic Director: “The course is designed for Africans – for those who have potential to become literacy consultants, high-level literacy trainers, and/or literacy project coordinators and who need the tools for these roles.”
Over the past 3 years (2004-2006), the African Intermediate Literacy Course has drawn attention from various sectors. For example, participating in the second session closing ceremony was Mrs. Joyce Kebathi, Director of Adult Education, Dr. Susan Nkinyangi, the Senior Educational Advisor from UNESCO to the Kenya Ministry of Education, and representatives from SIL Africa Area, BTL, LEF/Partners in Ministry, and the University of Nairobi. After orientation to the complete course plan, the UNESCO representative offered UNESCO endorsement for ILC. Consequently UNESCO co-signed the certificates that the 23 participants received after the third session upon their completion of the course.
A UNESCO website announcement, Intermediate Literacy Course “Opening new chapters in literacy” 2004-2006, states:
“Sub-Sahara Africa has one of the lowest adult literacy rates in the world.”
“As lead agency for the United Nations Literacy Decade, UNESCO is pleased to acknowledge the contribution made [by this course] in furthering the professional development of those responsible for literacy programmes in the region.”
The Intermediate Literacy Course purpose is being achieved beyond expectations as the twenty-three participants who completed the course are applying what they learned to literacy programs in their home countries: Cameroon, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.
Several of the graduates have done so well that the course staff recommended that they be assigned as teaching assistants for the next Anglophone course to begin in 2007. The caliber of the participants, what they brought to the course coupled with what they learned, is reflected in their words of wisdom for best practice. (See their comments in a section appended at the end of this article: Literacy Advice.)
During the course, the participants from Burkina Faso took on the task of translating the materials and lectures into French. A complete French-speaking staff is now prepared to direct and teach the course in Burkina Faso beginning in 2007. As this training is replicated in the future, hopefully the localized version planned for Francophone Africa will experience success comparable to the 2004-2006 course.
Impact and influence of the course may be judged in part by the extent of the programs represented by the ILC participants. During the 2005 phase of the course, a quick survey of the programs represented by the participants yielded the following information:
|adult literacy learners|
|adult literacy learners (4 projects represented)|
|adult literacy learners.|
|Kenya – BTL:||
|adult literacy learners.|
|Kenya – LEF:||
adults and children (3 projects represented)
learners approximately-books and expertise provided by other organizations that do the teaching.
Staff members were carefully chosen for their teaching and French language abilities. The staff included a Kenyan educator with extensive administrative experience as Course Coordinator and an SIL International Literacy Consultant with a PhD. in Education, as head of the course. Co-instructors of the course were other SIL trained literacy and education consultants with extensive field experience in Africa and in the development of literacy and language programs.
In appreciation to the instructors of the course, beneficiaries of a literacy program in one country sent gifts of T-Shirts promoting the alphabet of their language/mother tongue. The staff wore them proudly as they listened to a case study from that area.
|Topic||Hours of guided study, readings, homework, application|
|11.5||Aspects of literacy progams and planning||30|
|11.5||Orthography design and dialect issues||22.5|
|10||African case studies and analysis|
|Total academic hours:||131|
|1||computer instruction – optional|
|8||hours miscellaneous–course opening and closing, evaluations, etc.|
|9||Total course hours:||140|
|Topic||Hours of guided study, readings, homework, application|
|7.5||Aspects of literacy progams and planning||7|
|6.5||Orthography design and dialect issues||14.5|
|2||Marketing, distribution, mass media||1|
||African case studies and analysis||6
|64||Total academic hours:||71.5|
|Topic||Hours of guided study, readings, homework, application|
|13||Reading methods, general||15|
|9||Reading methods, Gudschinsky Method||24|
|9||Reading methods, Multi-Strategy Method||14|
|8||Reading methods, Inter-Active Whole Language||12.5|
|3||Transitional primer development - L2 to L1||6.5|
||African case studies & analysis|
|Total academic hours:||147.5|
|11||hours miscellaneous. - course opening and closing, attendance at International Literacy Day ceremonies|
|Total course hours:||158.5|
For the complete three phases of the course, this equals 192.5 instructional hours, plus 221.5 hours of guided study, readings, homework, and application exercises for a total of 414 academic hours. Total course hours, including opening and closing ceremonies, evaluations, and attendance at International Literacy Days, came to 447 hours. (See also: UNESCO website for a downloadable PDF file outline of the course content.)
The course structure included the following:
- African case studies (program reports). Time was allotted in each phase for each participant to report on their individual programs and progress during the past year.
- Readings. Readings were screened for their English difficulty level to accommodate participants whose first language was not English, and more appropriate readings were substituted where possible.
- Theoretical content. Because of language difficulty, several of the more abstract theoretical readings were omitted.
- Discussion. Two to three hours daily were assigned to small and large group discussions in the first two sessions, with staff or upper-level participants facilitating the sessions and available to clarify questions arising from the lectures or the readings. The majority of the class, who were global learners, reported this to be an important part of their learning process. (A small minority of analytic learners may have preferred less discussion.)
- Primer project. The Gudschinsky Approach primer project was assigned to individuals to be done in each participant’s mother tongue, rather than as a small group assignment. This assumed that working in a known language would be more profitable for the learners than trying to develop material in their second or third language.
Original planning did not include so much time to be spent on primer construction, on the assumption that participants already had experience in this area. More time was allotted because of requests received and the obvious need for more expertise in this area.
A corps of literacy project leaders has been prepared who are well grounded in both theory and practice. They are now more capable of assessing situations, of planning and implementing programs independently, of explaining concepts to others—and display more confidence in doing so. Many participants are being requested to assume increased responsibilities on orthography committees, as project managers, as trainers, and as advisors to peers and even Ministry of Education officials. They report that they find themselves stepping into these responsibilities with new skill and confidence as a result of the knowledge gained in the course. Their reports also tell of increased community activity with a view to making programs sustainable for the long term.
- A basic course in linguistics must be a prerequisite for such a course as ILC. In the time allotted, a course like ILC is unable to provide the linguistic background that orthographic and dialectical problems require of the participants. Lack of linguistic knowledge hampers primer making, where spelling, word divisions, and an understanding of functional grammar and language patterns become crucial factors in the preparation of effective reading materials.
- Five staff members seems to be the minimum number needed for a student body of this size (21- 24 students). The load is heavy because, in addition to teaching, staff members spend many evenings in mentoring groups and consulting on assignments. A sixth staff member, added for session three because of its heavy consultant mentoring component, was also fully occupied. Secretarial duties need to form part of one staff person’s assignment—photo coping, keeping of the official records, preparation of CDs, thank you cards, etc.
- The mix of experienced and younger staff members seemed a perfect blend and afforded less experienced instructors the opportunity to prepare as high-level trainers for future courses.
The participants of the three-cycle Intermediate Literacy Course held in Kenya can be expected to make a significant impact on illiteracy in Africa. Already they represent over 146,000 literacy learners, but in the years to come they will be instrumental in assisting thousands more who reach out for education in generations to come.
Respected role models among their people, these participants demonstrated a passion that has carried them through severe physical and financial hardships. Their vision – to extend themselves by building capacity in others – is already coming to pass.
See also: SIL International Media Release – UNESCO endorses SIL-sponsored African Intermediate Literacy Course (ILC)
Intermediate Literacy Course overview by Pat Kelley from information submitted by the ILC staff. Photos by Craig Combs.
The ILC participants had a lot of wise and practical comments and advise to give as a result of their experience and their training. The following are some of their comments which are organized according to the roles the participants currently fill in various Literacy and Education Programs. *
NATIONAL LEVEL COORDINATORS
George Maalug Kombian (GILLBT, Ghana)
- Start small and gradually expand.
- Focus on quality; not necessarily on quantity.
- Literacy is (not only) a means to an end but an end in itself.
Béatrice Konfé Tiendrébéogo (ANTBA, Burkina Faso)
- Have all the books (basic and post-literacy) ready before starting the programme.
- Employ the grassroots at the beginning for sustainability.
Cyrus Murage (BTL/CELLADEV, Kenya)
- Patience – Even our funding partners need to be enabled to exercise the same.
- Innovation – Literacy requires this because many things are learned as we go along. We may even need to look into the impact and not just the numbers of learners as shown by the Results Based Management (RBM).
- Working for displaced people requires extra patience, endurance and trust. They need encouragement. They are a people who have lost virtually everything they had, including loss of loved ones. Some of them feel helpless and hopeless and therefore aggressive and suspicious.
- The literacy worker should not only concentrate on the material aspects of giving knowledge and skills but also needs to build the spiritual aspects to restore hope in their lives.
NATIONAL LEVEL ADMINISTRATORS
Johnstone Ndunde (CELLADEV, Kenya)
- Any change of strategy must be well thought out.
- Management must be briefed regularly as you move in the new direction.
- Pilot the change before engaging the whole organization.
- Find personnel who are good planners, organizers, are open minded, have good communication skills and are good, independent thinkers in critical situations.
- Maintain relationships with other organizations and institutions.
In Workshop Management:
Judith Asibi Kania Bawa (GILLBT, Ghana
- Be ready to change your methods and attitudes and be able to accept positive criticisms.
- Avoid tribalism and favoritism among team leaders in your organization.
- Formal qualifications can be very important for the recognition of your organization.
- Find personnel who are interested in the goals and vision of your organization, not just interested in money.
- Follow the set process for language development, rather than just going your own way.
- Respect the elders of the community and involve the community in the programme.
- Don’t make any promises before you’re sure you know what you can do.
- Make sure you have regular annual meetings with all language committees.
Judith Asibi Kania Bawa (GILLBT, Ghana
- The scope of national literacy programmes,…is wide and difficult to manage financially. Therefore, break them into regional blocks. Encourage the local programmes to become autonomous and relate to the national office in a Consultant – Client relationship.
- When planning to start up a programme such as the Gender Promotion Program, forge partnerships with development oriented agencies e.g. CIDA, NWCD etc. and play consultancy roles rather than implementer roles.
- If local literacy programmes are to forge the kind of partnerships that they need to become truly community owned, generate programs with community and other stakeholders’ participation for sharing of expertise and ownership.
Peter Wangara Amoak (Buli, Ghana)
- Involve the local people in the design, implementation, monitoring and all aspects of the programme, so that the foundation for local ownership is laid from the very beginning.
- A large programme … needs the involvement and support of a lot of people, e.g. teachers, supervisors, committee members etc. The spirit of volunteerism is waning as people have to make a living. Therefore decide with the people what to do before the start of the programme.
- Micro-credit schemes are time-consuming and need some people with the relevant expertise to make them successful. Consider your staff capacity and different expertise before embarking on one. Also, try to link the scheme to the literacy programme (e.g. only women in literacy qualify to benefit) to encourage more female participation in the literacy programme.
LITERACY PROJECT LEADERS
Tobias Osunga Otunga (Suba, Kenya)
- Identify key institutions within the community and share with them your vision for the language development. Seek to work with their structures and lobby support from their leaders.
- Learn to be flexible, patient and focused.
- The best people to get involved in the literacy programme are the elders because they are committed
- If the language committee and the community have no interest in their language, you need to start with language awareness.
- Make sure you begin a project with people who have proper education for the task.
- First, study the culture of the people. For example, if the people are very religious, go with Scripture to open the way for your programme.
- The literacy materials … should be based on their culture. Use a participant approach to collect materials from the people, as this will make them happy.
Gideon Kongo, Kenya
- Graciously educate partners on the need to print only a few primers at a time. … This will remove the pressure for to use all the budget in a given time period and thus force the printing of thousands of copies with errors.
- Seek special regular meetings with …literacy coordinators/ supervisors to share knowledge and principles to help equip them with principles learned in workshops such as ILC – this course.
- Try to help with the development and supervision of testing learners.
Patrick Ainea Malasi (PALM, Kenya)
- Carry out an awareness meeting … and make sure you explain roles and responsibilities of each party.
- Avail materials which are heavily subsidised, easily useable and easily learnt.
- Volunteer teachers don’t last long: prepare to train more always.
- Do not train anyone until the church commits to support the programme.
Bongnjioh Daniel Tah (Oku, Cameroon)
- Take the issue of handing over responsibilities to the community seriously.
- When choosing volunteers to serve in projects, they should be up to a certain level of education depending on the position they are to serve.
Edward Dismas Jillo (Pokomo, Kenya)
- Make sure there are as many literacy materials as possible to ensure the availability of post-literacy materials after the primers.
- Adults join literacy classes because they anticipate it to solve their immediate needs. Provide literacy which aims at trying to solve their social and economic needs rather than just embarking on reading and writing. They may not see the sense of just reading and writing if it doesn’t solve an immediate need. It is good to incorporate literacy with community development projects and Income Generating Activities.
Gideon Tatchum Noussi (Muyang & G. N. Region, Cameroon)
- First, evaluate the present situation of the project. Focus on the education level of the population, as well as the geographic situation. Find out what was done previously before you start the project.
John Shukurani Magundo (Giryama, Kenya)
- A lot can be done with a lot of money spent, and a lot can be looked at as achievements by a literacy worker, but in most cases it is not what the worker achieves after spending a lot of money that impacts the lives of the people. A literacy programme is successful if it attains continuity and self-sustainability.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the people you are working FOR and you will be able to work WITH them.
Ngong Nassah Nelson Akoni (Kom, Cameroon)
- Get all (the stakeholders) involved if you want this program to be a success.
- Look for teachers who are ready to help or volunteer.
Ntani Alaija Fale (Noni, Cameroon)
- When doing the transition from English/French to Mother Tongue, be prepared to face the challenges of transition.
- More organizational efforts are needed since you will work with both individuals and institutions with different administrative structures and goals.
- When planning to do the Basic Literacy programme, be ready to produce more pedagogic material and do a lot of training.
EARLY STAGE PROGRAMMES
Mimbuche C. & Alche C.*
- Know the people you are working with well and how the community regards them.
- Allow the community leaders to make the choice of who should be involved in the early beginning. This is for the purposes of acceptability and community ownership of the program.
- Be patient and move at the pace of the community. Do not hurry them.
Falimana M. *
- Have patience.
- Create awareness by explaining to the community clearly about the work.
- Be ready to help the community if you are able (physical/ spiritual/ mental).
- Plan ahead for transport. Sometimes it is very difficult to go into the villages when it rains because the roads are impassable.
Jamagi N. *
- Be patient. Do not expect results the following morning. Do not expect that people will buy what are you trying to do in their community that easily, but be persistent.
- Be firm and focussed on your goal. Avoid getting distracted.
*By request, in some cases pseudonyms have been used.