To UPLIFT the quality of human life
This is the essential purpose of the Uganda Programme of Literacy For Transformation – to develop human capacity in all its facets: socially, economically, intellectually and spiritually.
At the initiative of a few individuals in the Bahá’í community in Uganda, with wide experience in the field of social development, UPLIFT was established in 2001 as an independent development agency and registered as a non-governmental (civil society) organization. Its operation was to be based on universal principles, such as the right to knowledge and education, freedom from prejudice, equal opportunities for men and women, and the abolition of extreme poverty.
Believing that literacy, as a key to knowledge, is also the best means to combat poverty, they selected a remote rural area in the West Nile region to apply these underlying principles. In Nebbi District, according to the 2002 National Census, 70 % of the men were counted as literate, while 70 % of the women were illiterate. Since then, UPLIFT has taught 20.000 to read and write and do simple arithmetic. On average four out of five have been women. By 2015, literacy in the district will have increased by 50 %, meeting the goal defined by Government in fulfilling the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The UPLIFT method is as simple as it is efficient. Literacy is taught through a limited yet complete set of phonetic syllables used in the local language (alur). Words, sentences and understanding are related directly to everyday life and needs, integrating literacy and numeracy in the training of skills. These include preventing and curing malaria; tree planting , composting and modern agriculture; as well as interfaith dialogue and consultation which facilitate the functions of small, local community based organizations (CBO) established by the learners themselves.
A significant outcome is the empowerment of women and their motivation to bring children to school. There is a noticable, collective behaviour change and an increased sense of human dignity.
In 2011 UPLIFT adopted a training programme for junior youth (ages 12-15) as a branch to the adult literacy training. A number of youth are still not functionally literate, yet eager to learn and develop morally and intellectually, and to put their skills to use in voluntary service to their local communities. Each year some 500 youths are enrolled. The programme is a collaboration with the Uganda Bahá’í Institute of Development.
Since 2012 a small number were selected for a special scholarship course in tailoring.
Finally, due to UPLIFT’s unprecedented degree of volunteerism throughout the organization, the programme is uniquely cost-efficient. In recent years a 9-month comprehensive training course – including teachers, trainers, transport, books, exams and certificates – cost less than 10 USD per learner.
In 2007-09, a 3-year Norad-funded project (REEP, Rural Educational Empowerment Project) boosted the programme and in its third year turned out 3.000 who completed the course. At present, some 1.650 men and women are enrolled annually, and at least 1.500 are expected to complete training.
The plan has set targets to improve literacy by 50 percent by 2015. The document further asserts that “it is inconceivable that poverty eradication can make such headway in the absence of major advances in literacy.”