The Kenya functional literacy programme: an evaluation
Gakuru, O. N. N.
Somerset, H. C. A.
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This paper presents the results of an evaluation of the Kenya Functional Literacy Programme, conducted on an experimental basis in six divisions (counties) in different parts of the country as part of the Special Rural Development Programme. The main problem with the literacy programme may be that it is too ambitious. Through the same set of texts it attempts to achieve three goals: first, the attainment of literacy, second, knowledge of the Swahili language, and third, knowledge of practical facts about agriculture, health and household management. By not establishing a priority order among these objectives, the programme risks failing to attain any of them. Little advantage is taken of the fact that Swahili, unlike English, is a phonetic language in which sounds are connected to written symbols in a rational and consistent manner. Students are not systematically taught the sound-values for each symbol, so they acquire only slowly the knowledge and skill needed to tackle the reading of new words for themselves. Instead, throughout the course each new word is learned first as a whole, by rote-memorisation. The period in which students remain intellectually dependent on their teachers is thus prolonged. An alternative teaching method based on the rapid breaking down of a few well-known and meaningful generative words into their simplest components is suggested. Virtually no account is taken of the fact that for most learners Swahili is a little-known second language. The order in which new words are introduced bears little relationship to their linguistic or phonetic difficulty. Forgetting of new words thus tends to be rapid. The information and advice given in the booklets about farming is sometimes inconsistent with existing knowledge, and often fails to take into account the constraints under which low-income families in Kenya live. If the new information to which learners are exposed is not both accurate and relevant, very little of what is taught will lead to permanent behaviour changes.