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Education Worldwide

The Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project in Uganda


Most intergenerational literacy projects match elderly literate volunteers with children acquiring reading and writing skills. Not so in Uganda. The Integrated Intergenerational Literacy Project (IILP) targets both illiterate children and adults within the same project.

The IILP was initiated in 2003 by the community-based NGO Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association (URLCODA) in order to tackle illiteracy and the needs of Uganda’s rural population in Arua district. URLCODA views literacy as the central skill in order to

  • empower rural communities
  • overcome problems such as poverty and unemployment
  • maintaining an own local healthcare systems
  • cope with psychosocial and economic effects of HIV
  • promote socio-economic development generally.

Arua district suffers from the ongoing armed conflict in northern Uganda. In 2005, just 41 per cent of those eligible to go to school do so, whereas girls drop out more often than boys. A lack of adequate teaching resources, instructional materials and qualified teachers is a problem for primary, secondary schools and adult literacy centers as well. IILP is currently the only active literacy initiative in Arua district attracting over 300 children and 500 adult learners.

Formal literacy classes take place twice a week for four hours in fifteen learning centers. Three volunteer educators work with roughly fifty to eighty learners in each literacy center. Volunteers are primary school teachers or medical personnel trained by URLCODA. Teaching integrates literacy learning with livelihood and life skills such as health education, income-generation activities, agricultural training, environmental conservation and the production of relevant and homemade learning materials in a unique way. Teaching methods employ lectures, discussions, role play, field exchange visits and much more.

The achievements thus far are impressive. 570 learners took a literacy test and achieved a pass mark required by the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development that oversees adult literacy projects in the country. Most adults learned to read few pages of text, understand directions and read signposts.

The intergenerational learning approach has empowered parents to transmit their knowledge to children and youth formally during classes. Outside of class, mothers were better able to help their children with their homework and understand school formalities after having completed the programme.

Outstanding as an idea and a result seems to be the launch of 600 copies of a pictorial reader book for beginners produced by the IILP literacy learners themselves. The learners participated in a series of book writer’s workshops before, which proved to be a motivational learning experience. The book launch attracted even more literacy learners and community and institutional support.

However, a lack of funding is still a problem for producing enough and adequate learning materials, paying stipends and to compensate the volunteers for their lost productive time.

In order to overcome the lack of funding, URLCODA now runs a grinding mill and poultry projects and uses the income for literacy project. Literacy learners – also as a life skills and financial literacy teaching tool – form loan and savings clubs in the hope of retaining or even attracting literacy learners.

(Text adapted from, and courtesy of UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, picture shows booklaunch)