|Programme Title||Ganokendra (Community Learning Centres) Programme|
|Implementing Organization||Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM)|
|Language of Instruction||Bengali (Bangla)|
|Programme Partners||Local Communities, UNESCO, the State of Bangladesh (through local administrative bodies, extension service departments), Bangladesh Open University, Concern Universal and NGOs working in the area.|
|Date of Inception||1992|
Background and Context
Over the past few decades, Bangladesh and various NGOs have instituted several educational programmes such as universal (compulsory and free) primary education and the establishment of village libraries and village study circles in an effort to provide its citizens with access to quality education and thus to promote national economic development, poverty alleviation and social empowerment and transformation. However, in spite of these concerted efforts, a majority of Bangladeshis, particularly those living in marginalised rural communities, and especially women, children and people living with disabilities, have little access to quality education and livelihood opportunities. As a result, poverty and illiteracy continue to be highly prevalent in the country. It is estimated that every year about 7 million children fail to attend school or drop out of school before completing primary education, thus about 60 million Bangladeshis are functionally illiterate. Overall, UNESCO estimates that the total adult and youth literacy rates were 47 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively, between 1995 and 2004. The continued prevalence of illiteracy in the country is due to a number of socio-economic factors including high levels of poverty and the general lack of development, all of which prevents many people from gaining access to basic education. Additionally, many neo-literates (i.e. primary school graduates) have relapsed into illiteracy due to a severe lack of institutionalised post-primary educational programmes. In light of this, and recognising that illiteracy is both the cause and consequence of poverty and under-development, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in 1958 to promote poverty alleviation and socio-economic empowerment among the poor – initiated the Ganokendra (translates from Bangla to “people’s centres”) Programme in 1992 with support from UNESCO.
The Ganokendra Programme (GP)
The Ganokendra Programme (GP) is a non-formal, intergenerational and integrated educational programme which endeavours to create contextually appropriate, need-based and sustainable lifelong learning opportunities for out-of-school children, youths and adults living in marginalised rural and urban slum communities. Although the programme serves all community members, particular efforts are made to target women, not only because they are often marginalised from existing educational programmes but also because they are central to family and community development. As such, women currently constitute about 70% of the membership of more than 85,300 programme beneficiaries.
In order to cater for the diverse needs of the different groups of beneficiaries, the GP provides participants with skills training opportunities in a variety of fields including:
- literacy (basic and functional literacy);
- livelihood skills training and support to establish income generation activities / projects (in, for example, handicraft production, carpentry and agriculture);
- health (e.g. HIV/AIDs awareness and prevention, family nutrition, good sanitation practices, anti-drug and anti-tobacco awareness campaigns);
- environmental conservation and
- civic education (leadership training, human and gender rights awareness, human security, democratic governance, conflict management and resolution, child and women trafficking awareness and prevention).
Aims and Objectives
The GP endeavours to:
- create sustainable and community-based Lifelong Learning opportunities for the poor majority in order to combat illiteracy;
- create learning opportunities for neo-literates to enable them to retain, sustain and improve their literacy skills;
- compliment government efforts in combating illiteracy in the country in line with UNESCO’s six Education for All (EFA) Goals;
- combat rural poverty;
- promote community development, social empowerment and transformation;
- enable economic self-reliance among the poor majority and
- raise the living standards (quality of life) of poor people.
To achieve these multiple and integrated goals, the Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) has established about 2,470 multi-purpose Ganokendra or Community Learning Centres (CLCs) across the country since 1992. The CLCs have since become focal points for the provision of needs-based non-formal education (literacy and life skills training programmes) to out-of-school children, youths and adults in the country. The CLCs are also used as community libraries and are therefore stocked with a variety of easy-to-read materials for community members of all age-groups. In addition, the CLCs also provide facilities for public meetings and socio-cultural and economic activities which are necessary for cultural preservation and for promoting peaceful coexistence, community development and social empowerment (see pictures below):
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
From the outset, local communities or programme beneficiaries were actively consulted and involved in the development and implementation of the GP. Thus, apart from providing land, labour, construction materials and money needed for the establishment of Ganokendra or CLCs, DAM has also entrusted local communities (through their elected management committees) with the overall responsibility of managing the centres, initiating and managing centre-based learning activities, and recruiting and facilitating the provision of professional training to a centre manager (known as Community Worker) and programme tutors or facilitators. In addition, the CLC management committees and programme facilitators are also responsible for sourcing and producing the necessary learning materials such as booklets, posters, magazines, charts, newsletters and audio-visuals and for and stocking the centres with these. The local CLC management committees are supported in these endeavours by DAM, various development NGOs and local government bodies. Further funding for the CLCs is provided by DAM. The money generated through these processes is used, among other things, to procure learning materials for the CLC, fund centre operational costs and most importantly, provide members with soft loans or credits. CLCs clustered in a geographical area are networked through a technical service centre known as a Community Resource Centre (CRC). CRCs also function as nodal institutions to facilitate establishing linkage of the Ganokedra with government and private sector service providing agencies.
Recruitment and Training of Facilitators
Generally, the GP attracts community-based personnel (mostly women) with lower educational qualifications and professional teaching capacities. Known as Community Workers, these facilitators are recruited locally by DAM field offices in consultation with the Ganokendra management committees. They work mostly as para-volunteers; a nominal allowance is paid to them to recognise their contribution to the society. Accordingly and in order to ensure the effective implementation of the GP, DAM provides all programme facilitators and supervisors with professional training in non-formal education and management of CLCs. So far, DAM’s training division has provided training to more than three thousand facilitators and two hundred supervisors. In particular, the Training of Trainers (ToT) programme trains facilitators and supervisors in:
- non-formal education teaching methods;
- community mobilisation and capacity building;
- management of CLCs;
- functional organisational networking;
- planning and implementation of community development programmes;
- development of locally-focused curriculum and learning materials and
- assessment or evaluation non-formal educational outcomes.
Mobilisation of Participants
The participants of a Ganokendra come from various segments of population in the community where it is located. Initially, the learners from literacy courses are enrolled for post-literacy courses and practice sessions in the Ganokendra. Gradually other members of the society such as farmers, artisans, day labourers, school children, teachers, local youths and community leaders join various programmes in the Ganokendra. Some of them visit the Ganokendra to read newspapers or to collect information for their needs.
Training-Learning Methods and Approaches
The participants in the Ganokendra activities learn through practical work (for vocational skills training), self-reading, guided reading, socio-cultural activities and discussions. Literacy skills training support is provided by programme facilitators through centre-based consultations and discussions (CLCs are open for five days a week, two to three hours a day). In addition, learners are also allowed to borrow books for home-based study and facilitators often conduct home visits to assist families in their studies. The learners study in groups, and graded reading materials are supplied to suit the ability levels of the readers. Specialists working in various fields are also invited to share information with the participants through issue-based discussion sessions.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Monitoring and Evaluation
Typically, the Management Information System (MIS) unit of DAM’s Planning and Monitoring Division monitors Ganokendra operations on a regular basis and against a set of indicators. Performance is also monitored through regular reports from the facilitators, supervisors and area coordinators. These reports are cross-examined by MIS personnel during their field visits. In addition, the central management team of DAM (programme officers, programme coordinator and the director) make inspection visits to assess the management, networking and learning support programmes of CLCs. After field-level and central office analysis of the reports and the visit findings, the local centres receive feedback with regard to their activities.
Since being instituted in 1992, the GP has made critical and positive contributions in promoting Lifelong Learning, combating illiteracy, developing communities, creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for marginalised members of society (poverty alleviation) and effecting social empowerment and transformation. Significantly, these positive contributions to societal well-being and development have largely been achieved through the use of local resources, capacity and knowledge systems.
The programme has led to a decrease in adult illiteracy rates while, at the same time, equipping many adults with vocational skills and supporting them to establish a variety of income-generating projects. These projects have progressively led to community development and thus improvements in the quality of life of rural people. Improvements in rural or poor people’s living standards as well as their perceptions on the role and value of education in their lives have positively motivated many parents to support their children’s education. As a result, the enrolment of children in rural schools has steadily increased. In addition, the GP has also provided marginalised communities with access to information and a forum to meet and discuss their local problems and developmental needs. Access to information has improved people’s awareness of their civic rights and their health needs which, in turn, has resulted in positive social empowerment and transformation. It has also enabled formerly marginalised communities to actively participate in local decision-making processes. Furthermore, the GP has led to improvements in community cohesion, providing a forum for the peaceful discussion of solutions for community problems.
The following are key challenges that have been encountered to date:
- Developing a facility to suit diverse learning needs and securing the availability of a venue for a multi-purpose centre like the Ganokendra is often difficult. Usually the land for the Ganokendra is donated by a local philanthropist, and is often limited in size. With the expansion of the activities, it becomes imperative to develop more facilities, which demands more land and resources.
- In expanding, it becomes difficult for the facilitators to manage a diverse group of participants and an expanding range of activities, due of their limited capacity and other preoccupations. The absence of financial and professional development incentives for programme facilitators sometimes become a de-motivating factor for them.
- The activities of CLCs, particularly those in remote areas, are often undermined by lack of resources; support from local governmental bodies is not available in some cases, due to their own resource constraints.
As a direct product of the process of people mobilisation, and the creation of a people’s platform at community level, GP is sustained through its established links with local service-providing agencies. The contribution from the community both for physical set-up development and programmatic expansion enables the Ganokendra to continue. DAM develops the management capacity of the Ganokendra committee members through training and exposure visits, so that they can continue operation of the centres once DAM support is phased out. By now more than 200 Ganokendras run self-sufficiently through mobilizing local resources; in some cases, DAM provided only technical support for further strengthening of their management capacity.
A key lesson that has emerged since the inception of the programme is that community-based non-formal educational programmes are more effective and successful when they harness and are built on local resources, capacity and knowledge systems and when local communities are actively engaged and involved in the planning and management of learning activities. The success and sustainability of non-formal educational programmes is also closely dependent on their potential to address local challenges and fulfil people’s basic needs as well as on effective capacity building.
- Alam, K. Rafiqul. Learning Creation of Society Through Community Learning Centres (Ganokendra): An Innovative Approach of Basic and Lifelong Learning in Bangladesh. www.accu.or.jp/ltdbase/break
- Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Bangladesh, www.ahsaniamission.org.bd/
- DVV/Ganokendra – People's Forum for Lifelong Learning and Social Development: The Bangladesh Experience, www.iiz.dvv.de/index.php?article_id=1073&clang=1
- “Ganokendra: The Innovative Interventions for Lifelong Learning and Community Development” in Handbook on Effective Implementation of Continuing Education at the Grassroots by UNESCO Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok (2001), http://www.unescobkk.org/fileadmin/user_upload/appeal/gender/Banglade.pdf
- Asia South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE), India (2000): Beyond Literacy – Ganokendra,
The Executive Director
Mr. M. Ehsanur Rahman
Dhaka Ahsania Mission
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