Monday, September 12, 2011


The International Literacy Day is a challenge for Uganda given that we still have a size able number of people who don't know how to read and write, yet many of these people cannot easily join local efforts to learn functional adult literacy if there is no immediate monetary rewards to be got after that effort. This is worsened by the situation where though the Government sings about Universal Primary Education (UPE), its contribution is a drop in the ocean. Parents in many UPE schools have to meet expenses which call for some income to finance. The shs 1,350 per term per child is unthinkable given the smallest amount a parent has to meet of uniform about 10,000 - 15,000; lunch or lunch substitute of shs 5,000 to 15,000 or more, books about shs 6,500 the least a term,Geometry set, school bag, pens and pencils to mention a few, not forgetting that these schools charge anywhere between shs 15,000 to 25,000 or more for fees and monthly tests. So, free primary education is not real in Uganda, and given the increasing poverty more so where the shilling keeps depreciating every other day, the fear is real that at this day and age in Uganda illiteracy rates are likely to remain high.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka

Educational institutions and literacy missions around the world commemorates the International Literacy Day on September 8. Endorsed by UNESCO, this day is proclaimed for disseminating literacy awareness amongst world's illiterate community.
Recognition of Literacy by UN
Adopted in the year 1965 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Literacy Day is observed every year, on this day with a new mission.
Since its very inception, this day became a special occasion to mark literacy awareness and many educational programs featured this particular day in their year round events. But in the year 1990, the United Nations General Assembly provided a bolster to global literacy by proclaiming the year as International Literacy Year. The special year marked the ongoing commitment of the world community to boost and support literacy as a key to personal progress and to the socio-economic development of nations.
International Literacy Day 2009 theme is "The Power of Literacy." It means this year the focus will be on the empowerment of literacy and its importance for participation, social progress and citizenship. Literacy and Empowerment is the theme for the year 2009-2011 of the United Nations Literacy Decade has been accepted.
What literacy is all about?
The definition of literacy and a literate person is vast according to UNESCO. A literate person is one, who can, with understanding, both read and write a short statement relevant to routine life, and capable of analytical understanding of men’s condition in the world. Literacy is a means of personal liberation and development and delivering individuals educational efforts. Literacy is a method of achieving faculties to develop their economic status and general well being and inculcating values of national integration, conservation of surroundings, fairer sex’s equality, observance of standard family tradition, etc.
Why literacy is important?
Literacy is not just about educating, it is a unique and powerful tool to eradicate poverty and a strong means for social and human progress. The focus of literacy lies in acquiring basic education for all, eradicating poverty, reducing infant mortality, simmering down population growth, reaching gender equality and ensuring constant development, peace and democracy. There are sufficient reasons why literacy is the centre of Education for All (EFA). A good quality basic education equips people with literacy potentials for life and further learning; literate parents are inclined to send their children to school; literate people are prone to access continuing educational opportunities; and educated societies are better geared to keep pace with the pressing development.
Hence literacy is considered as an effective way to enlighten a society and arm it to facing the challenges of life in a stronger and efficient way, raise the level of personal living, create and assist change the society.
Alarming Statistics
Despite many and multifarious efforts, the literacy rate across the world looks alarming. According to UN analysis there are close to four billion literate people world wide and some 776 million people lack minimum literacy skills, that mean one in five adults are yet to literate; 75 million children did not attend school and many more attend irregularly or are drop outs. Almost 35 countries have a literacy rate of less than 50% and a population of more than 10 million people who are illiterate. 85% percent of the world's illiterate population dwells in these countries, and two-thirds are fairer sex.
Total Literacy Requires Collective Efforts
Besides some customary bottlenecks have being observed in some under developed countries like population blast, lack of proper infrastructure and other factors, the grave backlash of the present economic crunch has also cut down the pace of the total literacy drive.
According to the UN, it calls for a combine parallel efforts, sufficient resources and endeavor, strategies, and continued analysis of the developmental work revised political will and for accepting to do things differently at all levels - locally, nationally and trans-nationally.
Four Tier Plan
Since 2000, for disseminating literacy across the world in big scale various governments of the world have announced four initiatives in collaboration with several agencies of the United Nations. These four initiatives are:

Education for all
Millennium development targets
United Nations literacy decade and
United Nations decade of education for constant development.

Several educational programs have been launched by the governments of world to make the people literate. Of course, such literacy programs have become successful, but still a good section of country’s population is still non-literate.
Making the entire literate is yet a far fetched goal. The fact is that without making the entire world literate we cannot expect a global development.
On this special day, let us take an oath to make our country as well as the world literate. It is possible if we take the very first step ourselves by sparing some time for uneducated people living around us.
Several educational programs have been launched by the governments of world to make the people literate. Of course, such literacy programs have become successful, but still a good section of country’s population is still non-literate.
Making the entire literate is yet a far fetched goal. The fact is that without making the entire world literate we cannot expect a global development.
On this special day, let us take an oath to make our country as well as the world literate. It is possible if we take the very first step ourselves by sparing some time for uneducated people living around us.


Alex Ndeezi (MP)
Uganda's Universal Primary Education (UPE), begun in 1996, is the brain child of President Yoweri Museveni. A former lecturer at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, Museveni is one of Africa's pragmatic leaders who believes in the transformation and modernisation of society through the elimination of illiteracy and the provision of Education For All - irrespective of one's gender, disability or any other categorisation.
In practice, the UPE programme is not universal, but has a realistic tendency towards universality. Before implementation, the policy was extensively discussed at various fora, including educational institutions, in the cabinet and at parliamentary level. Under this programme, the government commits itself to providing primary education for a maximum of 4 children per family. In order to comply with Uganda's constitutional requirements on affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups, 2 of the 4 must be girls, if a family has children of both sexes. In addition, if a family has a child with disability, he or she must be granted the highest priority in enrolment under this programme.
The government pays the school fees for the children. It also provides grants to be spent on instructional materials, co-curricular activities like sport, and the management and maintenance of utilities like water and electricity.
By the end of September 1999 six and a half million children aged 6-15 had enrolled for primary school education - one third of Uganda's total population. Total enrolment rates for all children have tripled since 1996 and the enrolment of children with disabilities, almost half of whom are female, has quadrupled.

The increase in enrollment rates, as cited above.
The programme has helped to bring to light the enormous challenges of providing education for all and the special challenges of providing education to children with disabilities.
Increased funding for primary schools.
Reduced illiteracy rates - especially amongst children with disabilities.
Increased supply of building and instructional materials to schools. And increased awareness of the educational needs of children with disabilities e.g. the need for sign language development.

The policy emphasises the mainstreaming of all categories of children. Profoundly Deaf children are not yet benefiting much from the scheme.
Emphasis is on day schools - children with visual and physical disabilities are finding it increasingly difficult to travel for long distances to and from school on a daily basis.
Mobility aids like crutches, wheel chairs and white canes are not provided for in the programme. Neither is the physical environment in most schools accessible.
Special education teachers in areas such as Deaf education, Sign Language, visual and mental impairment are inadequate and non-existent in most primary schools.
The classrooms are always too congested. In some areas classes are conducted under mango trees.
The programme has been criticised for being short-sighted. It does not explain what will happen to the tens of thousands of children after primary level.
The current ratio of teacher to pupil is 1:110. This is extremely high and not conducive to proper learning and good standards. With this ratio, the children with disabilities who need special attention, simply get "swallowed" in the congested classrooms.
The negative attitudes of most teachers towards children with disabilities are in many respects still a hindrance to the success of the programme.
The programme has almost become too expensive to run because the government is short of funds. The result is that donors have been approached for assistance. However, these donors often come in with their own conditions, which may not be wholly in the interests of the programme.

The Way forward
Efforts are being made to construct special units within the mainstream schools to meet the needs of children with special learning needs. However there is still a need to build more special schools e.g. for deaf children.
There is a need for special grants for children with disabilities to enable them to acquire mobility aids and other special learning materials.
The Ministry of Education has already issued a directive on ensuring physical accessibility for children with disabilities in the construction of new buildings. Some schools have already started implementing this directive.
Last but not least, even though UPE has its own weaknesses it has been hailed world-wide as a wonderful programme, a reflection of political commitment to education for all, and a role model of how the poorest countries of the world, such as Uganda, can eliminate widespread illiteracy and develop their human resources by provision of affordable education.
Alex Ndeezi is Uganda's first Deaf Member of Parliament. He is also the chairperson of the Uganda National Association of the Deaf. He can be contacted at: PO Box 7339, Kampala, Uganda. Tel: +256 (0)41 27 25 63

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