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Adult Literacy classes for Women in a slum community

This past Thursday, I met with a group of young boys. I call them boys because they are slightly younger than me. They are not boys though, because of their life experience and because of their dreams and work. I can never resist young people that decide to return to their home and do something for their people so I arranged to speak with them, the moment I got their contact information.

The group is called Action For Fundamental Change And Development (AFFCAD) and it has four co-founding directors: Jaffar, Muhammed, Richard and Brian. As we walked back to the city, from the appointment, Muhammed told me, “You don’t realise some of these things as you are growing up. You assume all other kids live the same life.” Muhammed and the other founding directors grew up in Bwaise, a large slum in Kampala and the “things” he refers to are everything from sharing a room with 10 other siblings, domestic violence to having to work for your own tuition from the age of 12 and taking years off school to make money for tuition. Jaffar is even afraid to speak English and prefers to communicate in Luganda, a local language. From different zones of the slum, the four boys came together, pulled their resources and experiences to give back to their community. Their mission is “ To empower slum communities through well-designed programs to achieve sustained self-reliance.” They are truly amazing.

We spoke about a lot of things. They told me about the female sex workers in Kimombasa zone they give free condoms to, and about the sex worker who gave up her livelihood for a new career in business. They told me about the woman in Katale zone who takes in abandoned children. She has 27 children in her home now, between the ages of 2-10years, who they now support. They also took me to a school they mobilised the community to construct that now has 200 students, 150 of whom do not pay any tuition. They showed me a picture taken in July 2012 of women building a class (Picture is attached).

I meet people every day who change my life in many ways. Many times I write about them, often I call a friend to share the story and other times, they make me sniff. Tears of amazement, that I suppress because I don’t want to distract them from telling me more.

For these boys and the women in their community, I wanted to do more. It was from the picture of the women building a class for the children that struck at me most. I have a little experience in tutoring adult literacy classes, and I asked them if they had thought about that. They said they had. There was an international volunteer who had started classes for seven women but after the volunteer left, there was nothing more that could be done. So I said I could work with them!

I am meeting with them again tomorrow. From my conversation with each of them, I hope to learn:
• What she hopes to achieve from the experience. This should help me determine what areas to focus on with the particular student.
• If she went to school at all, and if she did, what level of education she stopped at.
• What they expect from me as a learning assistant. (I don’t think of myself as their “teacher” but as someone with the knowledge and resources to assist in their learning process.)

You are probably wondering why I am doing this. When I am moving around my schedule to make sure I am available on Thursday afternoon every week (I suspect I am going to change this to two afternoons per week), I also wonder. Not for long though, because we all know what education can do for a woman. It is the reason we demand for the girlchild to be taken to school. It is why we are able to log onto a computer and log into WorldPulse. It is how we are able to write our petitions and get our voices heard. It is how mothers help their children with homework. It is how businesswomen keep track of their accounts. It is the vehicle that runs this world. And, I want it for these women. My journal is titled “Ma Soeur” which is French for “My Sister”. I called it that because I hope that I am, and will always be, my sister’s keeper. I hope that when a woman needs help that I can provide, I show up for them. At the end of the day, when I sleep because I take long to sleep, I think about the day and wonder if I missed an opportunity to help somebody. You see, I have been lucky to get a good education and I want them to know what I know, because what I know empowers me every day. That slum is so close to the city that going there should not be a problem to me at all. It is a shame that I am only starting this now, and had not thought of it before. I hope more women join me because I know this is going to be an amazing experience all round. I can feel it already.


Is anyone here involved in Adult Literacy classes for women and can share with me a syllabus? I would like to look at different syllabi for ideas and to make sure I don’t miss any important areas, as I create one tailored for the women I will be assisting.

Image source:
"Bwaise women construct classrooms for HIV/AIDs pupils" (Publish Date: Jul 17, 2012)



Aminah's picture

Great initiative.

This is just so great Becky,

I cannot even start to understand how poorly these people are. I mean I have had a poor childhood. Never had enough to eat. But I always had roof over my head and my mother made sure we were educated.
We are lucky over here in the Maldives. In this day and age everyone has access to free education up to age 16.
So I guess we should not be complaining in the face of such stories as you have shared here.

I wish you and the boys all the best for your efforts. May prosperity come to the people, sooner than later.

And a note: Is this your contribution to this week's assignment? The topic matches and I am assuming it is your assignment. If so, you might want to tag it 2013 VOF Week 3.
If not, just ignore this part :)

Good luck with the teaching



Rebecca R's picture

Not assignment

I just really wanted to share this, but it is not my answer to this week's VOF. It is a coincidence that it fits. If I don't get time before 22nd to write out response, I will just edit this and submit.

About free education, we have a free education for all policy here too. It has been extended to high school. Parents don't necessarily send their kids to school and the schools lack resources. There is still a gap in the system.

I'll keep you updated on the women :-)

libudsuroy's picture

Hi, Becky, as I read your

Hi, Becky, as I read your work, I thought it is also your assignment. I even think that the tone and circumstances that frame the discussion is more fitting than the one you submitted as assignment. But no matter, you are doing wonders in your community: direct positive action towards change and empowerment. How enlightening and inspiring your lifework is shaping to be. Thank you for sharing. You have enlarged my world(s).

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Rebecca R's picture

Hard decision

You know, every time I went to bed, I thought about the assignment and wondered if I was making the right decision. I was really affected by Remy though and wanted her story told. So I wrote two posts :-) But made Remy's answer the questions from the week's assignment.


libudsuroy's picture

That's all right, I think.

That's all right, I think. Both are compelling pieces. What made this piece distinct is its being your direct personal experience. Oh, just so inspiring, your sheer will to serve others!

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

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