MEANING, USES, AND OUTCOMES OF ADULT LITERACY IN A FUNCTIONAL ADULT LITERACY PROGRAM IN UGANDA

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Author:
Odele, Anne
Graduate Program:
Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
November 16, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Esther Susana Prins, Dissertation Advisor
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Chair
  • Kimberly Powell, Committee Member
  • Carolyn E. Sachs, Committee Member
  • Alicia Catharine Decker, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Functional adult literacy
  • adult education
  • adult literacy
  • adult learning
Abstract:
This longitudinal ethnographic study employs a New Literacy studies and a critical literacy view of literacy, as well as a feminist food justice perspective to explore how 32 former participants in the Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Program in rural Uganda used learning from the program in their daily lives, the perceived outcomes of applying the practices learned in the program, and the meanings that literacy held for participants. Participants engaged in literacy practices such as reading contracts, signing names and calculating amounts of money during financial transactions, among others. Livelihood practices that participants engaged in included agriculture, environmental conservation, income generation, collective savings and spiritual growth among others. The findings indicate that to be more meaningful for poor populations, adult literacy programs must be rooted in people’s social realities. Participants’ access to resources including material, human and training shaped their application of literacy and livelihood practices, to realize instrumental, economic, cultural, and symbolic capital. However, participants contested the hegemonic influence of the Western sponsor, who determined the terms and conditions of operation for the savings and credit association, by establishing a parallel flexible savings and credit system, a social safety net that responded to their needs. Similarly, adherence to Christian teaching was challenged when participants sought recourse in traditional healers. Such experiences depict the fluidity of spirituality and melding of traditional and Christian practices. This research project contributes to scholarship on adult literacy education by demonstrating how the significance of literacy learning is linked to participants’ livelihoods and how literacy is used to manage spousal relationships. It also offers a cultural perspective of literacy in relation to the identities participants developed. The study adds to literature on longitudinal adult literacy by providing a nuanced view of hegemonic influences on local communities and the tension between cultural knowledge and Western knowledge about farming practices, health management, and local social safety nets.