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The Government of Uganda upscales accessible lifelong learning spaces – Community Learning Centers

9 May 2023 | Rita Kahurananga | DVV International Community Learning

CLC community hall

The Mpigi District Council Office towers above the communities, perched on a hill, about 60 kilometres from Kampala city centre. The Programme and Partnership Advisor (PPA), DVV International, Ms. Rita Kahurananga flanked by Joseph Kifampa, Programme Manager, DVV International Uganda were greeted with a warm smile at the entrance of the District Council by Annet Nabuuma, DCDO Mpigi District. It is noteworthy to see how the district Community Learning Centre has been maintained over the years. This care is echoed in the demeanour of the staff and officers and how they handle their duties.

One could not help but notice the poster promoting “equal opportunities” for all at the Parish level as we entered the DCDO’s office. Mainstreaming gender and inclusive programming are a hallmark of this district council. With much enthusiasm, the DCDO shared briefly the different programmes being administered by the council, specific to community development and social welfare at Community Learning Centres. Capacity building and skills development form a large component of the DCDO’s interventions. The Ministry of Labour, Gender, and Social Development (MGLSD) is the ministry taking the lead in administering Adult Learning and Education (ALE) in Uganda, in partnership with key stakeholders like DVV International at the macro, meso and micro levels. This cooperation was exemplified when about 50 stakeholders met during a four-day workshop convened by MGLSD, supported by DVV International Uganda from 20-23 March. The purpose was to review the draft version of the National Adult Learning and Communications Strategy (NALCES).

The stakeholder meeting was attended by key officials from the government, Non-governmental Organizations, Academia, and faith-based sectors. This workshop brought together representatives from more than 50 organisations in the field of ALE.

The first day focused on sharing updates on the national Integrated Community Learning and Education for Wealth (ICOLEW) programme led by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD). There were opportunities to hear from the participants as well as key beneficiaries of the ICOLEW programmes and projects from around Uganda, whose stories were captured and interpreted during the workshop. The aim of this session was to encourage ALE stakeholders in Uganda to engage in the implementation of the national ICOLEW programme and support the MGLSD in their efforts to create lifelong learning opportunities at CLCs for individual and community development and growth.

Other sessions focused on reviewing the draft National Adult Learning and Communication Strategy (NALCES). Stakeholders were invited to provide their feedback and comments on the document. The aim of the NALCES is mainly to provide ALE stakeholders with guidance and support in the implementation of the national ICOLEW programme. This was one of the key reasons why it was important for the MGLSD to engage ALE stakeholders in the strategy verification process early. The review process will continue taking on board the comments made by stakeholders during this meeting. The MGLSD will officially launch the NACLES during International Literacy Day on 8th September 2023.

The workshop also afforded an opportunity for ALE partners and NGOs such as Unbound, Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE), among others, to share examples of how they are already using the ICOLEW curriculum in their project activities and how this is benefiting beneficiaries on the ground.

Key learnings from the workshop

Some of the key takeaways from the workshop were:

  1. There is a high level of political will and active engagement between the Ugandan government, DVV International, and a strong partnership/stakeholder base.
  2. National stakeholder engagement is essential and effective when rolling out ALE programmes nationally.
  3. Opportunities should be explored for a future multi-sectoral stakeholder workshop for the East Africa region in order to promote and explore horizontal ALE across multiple sectors and to share best practices, which can then be shared widely on platforms such as MOJA Adult Education Africa and others.

So, what does all this high-level stakeholder engagement have to do with ensuring sustained impact on the micro-level? Our journey continues as the entourage travelled to the Buwama Community learning Centre in the Mpigi District of Western Uganda. Mr. Francis Wamala, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) at Mpigi district, and the DCDO shared brief updates about the ICOLEW programme before we met briefly with the Town Clerk and proceeded on to the Buwama CLC.

We were introduced the staff at the Buwama – the CLC coordinator, two Community Facilitators, a technical expert (a veterinarian), the Town Mayor, as well as the ICOLEW programme participants (a support group of women) and briefed on the main activities in the CLC. These included, but were not limited to, the following: a gymnasium that caters for youth and adults, an outsourced canteen, a well-resourced library, an agricultural demonstration site, a sewing workshop, ICT training services, as well as a community hall that was being used by the CLC and for other community skills development trainings.

It was possible to witness first-hand how macro-level policy has contributed to support and underpin the work at CLCs like this one in Buwama Town. Political will and community buy-in have combined to make it a success. The CLC has been in operation independently of the initial DVV International support for the past five years and builds on a former Area Development Programme (ADP) which was operated and supported by World Vision Uganda. A section of the buildings was also donated by the Government.

Key learnings from the CLC visit

  1. The CLC coordinator, facilitators, and community leaders have clear roles and responsibilities and an activity plan, as well as guiding principles for their CLC. It was good to see the active participation and support from the government Planning Officer, something that can be replicated in DVV Tanzania programmes and projects.
  2. The sense of ownership is palpable, and every contributor is looking for ways of enhancing their output, whether this is through fundraising (a demo plot needs funding to develop further) or identifying potential new partners. For example, CLC members mentioned that initially support from the Town Mayor was not great, but that this has since changed after he noted the improved adult learning outcomes for the groups who attended the ICOLEW trainings. So political will is also key at the micro level.
  3. The facilitator (especially the village chairman) has played a critical role in pre-during-and post-training support to the adult learners Village Savings and Lending groups (VSLAs), who could not initially count and document their proceedings; he has kept the CLC income-generating cow in his own homestead to ensure quality milk and sale of milk proceeds which are then ploughed back into the VSLA.
  4. When asked, the members of the VSLA women’s group said that gender-based violence is decreasing after a GBV training was conducted. Furthermore, the men are not simply taking over the savings and loans due to the women.
  5. The chair and vice-chair of the VSLA are both women, and so are the key government officials (Town Clerk, DCDO, for example). Joint decision making between men and women is being actively promoted.
  6. The CLC management committee members all agree that it has been a long and arduous road to build the current success. It did not happen overnight.
  7. The CLC management committee are already planning ahead for Literacy Week 2023 in September, which is a positive sign.

Projects and programmes like these in Uganda provide evidence-based solutions and spaces for learning and development for youth and adults. The spotlight is slowly turning towards ALE and the challenges faced by adult learners, which are being tackled through macro-micro engagement involving the government and key stakeholders. Home-grown solutions to lifelong learning continue to be institutionalized in Uganda, and the community uptake is a very positive sign for the future.