The Social Practices Approach to Adult Literacies: How to Stop Failing Adult Learners


Pamela Abbott*

Rwanda has set itself the ambitious target of enabling every adult to be able to read and write a simple passage and do basic arithmetic, but little progress is being made towards achieving it. EICV 5, carried out in 2016/17, found that nearly a third of adults say that they cannot perform these crucial tasks, and the proportion increases to just over 50% if we add those that say they can only do them with difficulty. Little progress is being made in reducing the proportion of adults that struggle with literacies. In the last 15 years there has been only a five percentage-point drop, from 37% in EICV 2 to 32% in EICV 5. Our research in the Western Province shows that only 9% of adults have attended a literacy course, even though 33%i do not have the essential literacies capabilities [1]. Only 14% of those that have attended a course have gained the skills that they hoped they would gain. Sixty-six per cent still cannot read Kinyarwanda and 76% cannot write in Kinyarwanda, 93% cannot do simple calculations and 99% cannot send and receive a text messages on a mobile phone. Women are more likely than men not to have literacies capabilities - 36% compared to 27% of men. Difficulties with literacies undermine people’s quality of life. Those who struggle with literacies are also much more likely to be poor than those who are confident with literacies - 43% are poor, compared to 28% of adults that have completed at least grade one of primary school. Those without literacies capabilities have difficulty in getting employment and experience problems in their everyday lives because they cannot read and write. They are excluded from leadership positions, unable to read the instructions on medicines, have to ask other people to read letters for them and often lack confidence in them


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