Family Literacy Project (FLP)
The Family Literacy Project (FLP) was established in 2000 to address the lack of improvement in the early literacy levels in pre-schoolers, despite training and support provided to pre-schools through the national department of education.
FLP held workshops in rural sites in southern KwaZulu-Natal for adults caring for children at home. These workshops provided opportunities for adults to discuss, learn and experiment with ways they could use everyday experiences and materials to build early literacy skills in their children. A participatory rural appraisal conducted late in 2000 showed that the adults also wanted to improve their own literacy.
Community activities were initiated and teaching units developed to meet the interest of family literacy group members on topics such as child protection, committee skills and HIV/Aids.
The FLP believes that families are the most important teachers a child will ever have and that every family can help prepare children to read and develop a love of books that will lay the foundation for future learning and enjoyment. The FLP aims to make literacy a shared pleasure and valuable skill.
Lynn Stefano, the former Director of the FLP, states:
“Our main aim is to reach very young children through their parents/primary caregivers/siblings, to build the early learning and literacy skills that are needed for later literacy development. The adults we work with typically have had very poor schooling or in some cases no schooling, live in remote villages where services and infrastructure is sorely lacking – in other words we work with some of the most marginalised people who have very limited opportunity for improvement in livelihoods.”
FLP works in 15 villages in deep rural areas of southern KwaZulu-Natal, namely in the Ingwe, Mzimkulu, Kwasani and Impendle municipalities, in the Sisonke District.
Participants come from across generations. Intergenerational learning is encouraged by working with adults, teens, young girls (9-12 years), foundation phase children, and with families in their homes.
The FLP has four focus areas: adult literacy (based on Reflect), early learning and literacy, libraries and health (based on the household and community component of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness).
The FLP runs the following projects
Family Literacy Groups:
These groups meet to discuss a range of issues as well as to improve language and literacy skills. To provide opportunities for the group members to use their literacy skills, the following have been initiated:
- Community notice boards
- Pen friends
- Box libraries and book clubs
- Community libraries
- Home visiting
- Nal’ibali reading clubs
- Young girls groups
- Teenage sexuality groups
- Holiday clubs
The Family Literacy Network:
Once adult literacy group members have been meeting for 7 years, they can join the Family Literacy Network, which encourages members to be less reliant on the FLP. The groups have chosen to continue to meet regularly to engage in small income generating projects and savings clubs. The network encourages members to use their literacy skills to improve their lives. Members continue to visit homes to play with a read to young children and to share information about early childhood development and safety with carers.
The FLP uses the Reflect approach to promote intergenerational learning. This approach informs their adult literacy work, and also how they work with teens and young children.
According to Lynn, while FLP does not explicitly draw on popular education philosophy, many of the underlying principles are similar:
“FLP aims to be participatory and build the capacity of local people to work in their own communities to bring about social change … our approach takes into account the context we work in and aims to equip families to take action to make improvements in their communities and families.”
Tools and processes
The FLP develops learning units based on what communities want to explore in their literacy groups. These are made up of from 6 – 12 two-hour sessions, depending on the subject.
Examples of learning units include
Unit: Confidence Building:
The main aim of this unit is to build women’s confidence: to help them recognize the skills and abilities that they have and the contributions they make to their homes and potentially, their communities. It is also to encourage them to take more initiative in using these skills to contribute to the development of civil society, even if in a very minor way.
Unit: Preventing the Spread of TB in Children
Children living in resource poor households in rural areas, where families rely on wood fires in homes with little ventilation, are particularly susceptible to TB. This unit helps carers to understand how TB is spread, the signs of TB, and how to protect children from the spread of the virus in their homes.
Unit: Children and HIV and Aids
This unit provides carers with information to help them identify whether their children may need to be tested for HIV, how to protect their uninfected children, and properly care for their children who are HIV+. Using various Reflect tools such as ranking, body mapping, and brain storming, carers share what they know about HIV + AIDS, dispel the myths that are held, and make plans to support and care for all their children in the face of the pandemic.
Unit: Taking Care of Ourselves
The main aim of this unit is to help the groups understand more about four health issues – TB, Diabetes, Cancer and Blood Pressure. The unit will help people understand some of the symptoms, causes and ways of dealing with these four health issues as well as what helps to prevent them. The groups will also think of ways that communities can support people who are suffering from one of these issues. An important message in this unit is that adults must take steps to keep themselves healthy so that they can take care of their children.
Understanding of popular education
FLP understands popular education to be:
“Non-formal education, which aims to enable marginalised communities to improve their lives according to their own priorities.”