|Programme Title||Adult Female Functional Literacy Programme (AFFLP)|
|Implementing Organization||BUNYAD Literacy Community Council (BLCC)|
|Language of Instruction||Urdu|
|Programme Partners||USAID under the Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) Programme and BLCC|
|Date of Inception||2003|
BUNYAD Literacy Community Council (BLCC) was formed in 1992 and registered in 1994 as a national non governmental organisation (NGO). Recognising that development is a multidimensional process, BLCC has adopted a multisectoral approach towards the promotion of development in Pakistan. To this end, BLCC is currently implementing a number of diverse yet inter-linked programmes, including literacy and education, health (sanitation, HIV/AIDS awareness, reproductive health), child labour, women empowerment and poverty alleviation, micro-credit and business development, farming and environment. These programmes are funded by various local and international organisations such as UN agencies (UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP), CIDA, USAID, ILO and local business organisations. While BLCC generally endeavours to assist and empower underprivileged and marginalised communities in Pakistan, the Adult Female Functional Literacy Programme (AFFLP) is specifically tailored to meet the educational needs of rural women (aged between 15 and 25) through the provision of functional literacy training assistance. The overall goal is to empower women in order to enhance their capacity to improve their standard of life.
Country Context and Background
Despite the considerable progress made in the past few decades towards the provision of basic educational opportunities for all, Pakistan continues to register low levels of literacy. Before 2003, the adult literacy rate was below 50 per cent (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014), with significant disparities between the literacy levels of women and men. For example, in 1998, the literacy rate for males and females aged 15–24 years was 67 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively. At the same time, the female literacy rate was as low as 29 per cent for adults aged 24 years and above and was believed to be even lower among women in rural areas. By 2015, although the adult literacy rate had improved to 56 per cent, there was still a 27 per cent gender gap in Pakistan (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014).
In general, access to education for all is hindered by several factors, including poverty and mismanagement in education. National Geographic summed up these problems more pointedly: ‘It’s not unusual in Pakistan to hear of public schools that receive no books, no supplies and no subsidies from the government. Thousands more are “ghost schools” that exist only on paper, to line the pockets of phantom teachers and administrators’ (Belt, 2007). Further challenges arise from the political instability and insecurity which limit access to education, particularly for people living in some rural areas, and especially for women.
Adult Female Functional Literacy Programme (AFFLP)
The AFFLP, non-formal education programme, is currently being implemented in the sub-district of Daska Markaz (Sialkot District) as part of the USAID-funded Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) programme. Daska Markaz consists of 12 Union Councils (nine rural and three urban) with an estimated 36,186 households. Daska Markaz has limited educational services and as a result, about 25 per cent of children aged between eight and nine years are out of school while 23 per cent of children aged between ten and 14 years are illiterate. The illiteracy rate is significantly higher for women aged between 15 and 25 years, the majority of whom had no or limited access to basic primary education and are therefore the primary targets of the AFFLP.
AFFLP is an integrated programme which offers literacy, vocational, business and life skills training as well as civic (human rights, peace building), health (reproductive, HIV/AIDS, nutrition) and agricultural education.BLCC initiated the AFFLP which primarily endeavours to assist women aged between 15 and 25 years to either gain access to education, or resume their studies after failing to continue due to the challenges outlined above.
Aims and Objectives
The project endeavours to:
- improve the basic and functional literacy skills of rural women aged between 15 and 25 years
- promote poverty eradication through literacy empowerment
- empower women to make positive contributions to their communities
- raise health awareness, particularly reproductive, among women
- raise public awareness about the importance of adult female literacy for community development.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
The project began in 2003 and was implemented in two phases: Phase 1, September 2003 to December 2004 and Phase 2, January 2005 to April 2006. During these two phases, the project was implemented in 182 villages across the sub-district.
BLCC has been working with local communities in Daska Markaz since 1999 and by the time the AFFLP was launched strong working partnerships had been established with community leaders and community-based organisations (CBOs). Nonetheless, before the launch of the AFFLP, BLCC conducted community-based qualitative and quantitative needs assessments in Daska Markaz. In the process, about 5211 potential programme participants aged between 15 and 25, the majority of whom had never attended school, were interviewed and the results revealed the need to implement literacy training for women. The surveys were also used to communicate the purpose and significance of the literacy project to the community.
Most importantly, the existing social networks enabled BLCC to mobilise community support as well as learners through community-based sensitisation and dialogue meetings. For example, BLCC held about 101 meetings with community leaders and other influential persons in different locations during which they were briefed about the project: its objectives, the importance of improved female literacy on community development and most importantly, the importance of their active involvement for the success of the programme. Following these meetings, BLCC established Village Education Communities (VEC) and Family Education Communities (FEC). The VECs and FECs were given the responsibility, for example, of identifying and encouraging learners to join the project as well as maintaining and organising activities relating to ESRA literacy centres in their areas.
Recruitment and Training of Teachers
Recruitment of teachers was based on their commitment to education and skills development as well as their teaching experience and qualifications. Two hundred and forty-two teachers were recruited and trained in adult education teaching methodologies, curriculum content and class management and organisation. BLCC also conducted monthly follow-up training workshops for teachers.
New Initiative: Mobile Rickshaw Libraries
In 2013, BUNYAD started a mobile library service through the Mobile Rickshaw Libraries initiative. As of August 2016, there are three mobile rickshaw libraries working in the rural districts of Rahim Yar Khan, Hafizabad and Lahore. The mobile rickshaw libraries are an independent initiative, supporting BUNYAD’s existing educational and literacy programmes, in response to the needs of local schools and communities. Limited access to reading opportunities negatively affects both young people and adults in rural Pakistan. Given that students have increased difficulties in retaining their interests in reading and learning, contributing to a situation where around 40 per cent of students drop out of primary schools and adults who have acquired literacy skills lack the opportunity to practice reading, the initiative addresses a direct need for reading material.
The initiative aims to serve students from public and private schools, teachers, members of school councils, women and men, and other community members. Through its service, the project aims to support student retention in primary schools by promoting reading habits among young people and adults, and support women’s empowerment by providing relevant reading material for the strengthening of literacy skills.
The mobile rickshaw libraries recruit readers from among learners who have previously graduated from or have attended courses at BUNYAD literacy centres and are motivated to practice their literacy skills through the rickshaw libraries.
The rickshaw libraries reach readers in the three target areas twice each month, with between 300 and 450 printed books available in every library. Reading materials are taken out by students and people in the communities. There is one facilitator in each library to assist learners with registration, keeping track of borrowing records and reading. A flexible membership fee is charged to sustain the project. The fee is waived for learners who cannot afford it and they can read and return books free of charge. To ensure that books are returned by readers, who are often still learning how libraries work, and to develop a sense of ownership among them, the programme asks school heads and school councils to act as guarantors for school students and adult readers.
The libraries cover a wide range of reading materials for students and community members. Printed materials include children’s magazines, books on women’s empowerment, and other reading material on topics relevant to young people, livestock, local stories, and financial skills. However, the uniqueness of the project lies in its use of information communication technologies (ICT) and its provision of e-learning materials. BUNYAD uses educational websites such as eLearn.Punjab, which has been developed and managed by the government of Punjab, to provide learners with online books, guides, short videos and animated explanations of terms and topics. The mobile rickshaw libraries are equipped with laptops and multimedia screens for learners to access the online materials. In areas where there is no internet connection, BUNYAD downloads the materials in advance and saves them in CD form so that learners can read them through laptops.
Other subjects covered by these e-reading materials include agricultural knowledge provided in CD form, gender-responsive multimedia materials developed in such a way that they are easy for adults who have recently acquired literacy skills to use, and animated books designed for young people. Some books are published by BUNYAD and are specifically developed for the target areas with relevant content. Other available books and materials are collected from various organizations, institutions and philanthropists.
As of July 2016, the project had reached 6,899 students and 761 adult women who had recently acquired literacy skills and had, through this initiative, gained knowledge and skills related to livestock, agriculture, maternal, newborn and child health, and financial skills. It has also created access to reading materials for another 7,584 community members. Project results suggest that participants have developed more interests in reading and independently searching for knowledge. Women have strengthened their decision-making and resource-management skills. Community members have also been mobilized to raise awareness of the importance of education and knowledge as well as to build up community spaces for information-sharing and discussion.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring of the project was undertaken on an ongoing basis using the various organisational structures of BLCC. Thus social/community mobilisers and teachers were responsible for ensuring the learners' continued attendance in classes and progress in acquiring literacy skills. On the other hand, project coordinators and managers were responsible for monitoring the work of the teachers, supervisors and activities at the learning centres. They also provided continuous training support and assistance to the teachers and the VECs and FECs to address the challenges which arose during the programme implementation process. As such, constant contact had been kept with the community through the regular meetings of VEC and FEC so that their participation ensured the smooth running and the success of the centres.
Impact and Achievements
A total of 5600 learners has participated in the programme. The learners have acquired basic functional literacy and numeracy skills in Urdu and English and a variety of vocational skills. A majority of the graduates (86 per cent) are now able to read and write while 14 per cent require remedial assistance. Ultimately, with improved reading skills, most learners are now able to lead more independent lives as they do not have to, for example, ask for directions when travelling or ask for assistance to administer medication to their families. Similarly, but perhaps most importantly, most learners are now able to read the Qur’an or the Bible, which was often the primary motivation in joining the literacy programme.
The programme has promoted intergenerational learning because the mothers and their children are now assisting each other to learn various literacy skills. This has, in turn, cultivated positive relationships between parents and their children.
Many learners acquired vocational skills such as cutting and sewing skills and are positively contributing towards family subsistence. This has enhanced the status of women within their families and communities. In addition, the project has improved their confidence and thus enabled them to be proactive agents of social change and progress.
Two hundred and forty-one community-based teachers have been trained and these will remain an invaluable community resource for a long time. Already some teachers in cooperation with VECs and FECs, are independently implementing developmental projects in their communities.
Some community leaders and influential families prevented the establishment of community learning centres in the villages. As a result, a number of meetings were arranged with community elders and the programme was further explained to them with regards to the benefits of literacy centres for community development. In most cases, centres were only established after community leaders and elders were convinced that they would be responsible for running and monitoring centre activities.
Some of the challenges faced and their remedies were:
- Adolescent girls and young adult women are often not permitted to leave their homes unaccompanied by a male relative due to conservative traditions. As a remedy, literacy classes were organised in village centres close to participants' homes. Additionally, learning centres were established in homes of highly respected local teachers who guaranteed the moral security of the participants.
Some parents were fearful that the literacy programmes would lead to the marginalisation of their religious beliefs. To ameliorate these fears, BUNYAD developed a curriculum which integrates learning in Arabic (the language of the Qur’an) and Urdu, the language spoken by most participants. Equally important, BUNYAD developed easy-to-read learning materials which were distributed to parents to demonstrate to them that the programme was not undermining tradition and that, in fact, it was strengthening it. This gave some parents confidence in the programme, resulting in more learners enrolling. BUNYAD also shared with the parents, the aim of learners to be able to read the Urdu translation of the Holy Qur’an. This really excited the parents and the young women, after reading the 30 chapters of the Holy Qur’an in Urdu, were more comfortable to continue learning.
Due to high rates of poverty, many potential learners could not afford to attend classes due to family responsibilities.
- Most learners were frustrated after failing to be employed after graduating from the project. As a result, programme emphasis is now on vocational skills training which would increase self-employment opportunities for learners.
BLCC has established Community Citizens Boards (CCBs) and entrusted them to spearhead the initiation and implementation of programme activities within their communities as well as to undertake fundraising activities. With regards to the latter, BLCC has linked the CCBs to commercial banks such as the Khushali Bank and local governments, providing invaluable lines of cheap loans. In addition, the establishment of the BUNYAD micro-credit enterprise has enabled BLCC to fund its activities from internal resources as well as to assist programme participants with short-term and cheap loans for income generating activities. Finally, demand for functional literacy skills programmes among women is still high due their limited opportunities to access quality education.
- Belt, D 2007. ‘Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan’, National Geographic [Last accessed 15 August 2016].
- UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics) 2014. Country Profiles. [Last accessed 15 August 2016].
Ms Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman
Bunyad Literacy Community Council
P.O. Box No. 6013 Lahore Cantt
Tel:(92-42) 371677205600621 or 5600692
District Coordinator Sialkot
First upload: 16 July 2010. Last update:1 September 2016