The power of adult educationAddressing rural Kenya’s gender divide
Life in rural Kenya
Even as a child, it was difficult for Elizabeth to imagine a different future. Most of her childhood was spent looking after cattle as she waited to be married.
The power of community
Working past difficult hurdles
Elizabeth and other women of her community must choose between putting bread on the table and going to adult education class in order to better their future.
Adults who cannot read or write often face stigma. They do not want to be taught in school buildings like their children or to appear uneducated. However, a lack of resources often stops adults from attending adult learning classes, as many cannot afford exercise books and pencils.
Unlocking one’s potential
She also learned how to operate basic technology, and undertook agricultural training, through which she was able to grow crops on her own land. This was key in helping her set up her own business of growing and selling millet in the local market.
My life has changed. I now know how to read my child’s report card. I can now know whether my child has performed good or bad at school. When I am at church and the pastor tells us to open the Bible to a chapter and verse, I can now open the Bible and read it for myself.
As a result, several women have joined adult education classes with Elizabeth to learn to read and write Kiswahili and start their own businesses.
The impact on the wider community
But the effect of adult education on the wider community is just as significant. Poverty is reduced, the standard of living of learners increases, and they become active members of their communities.
West Pokot suffers high levels of female genital mutilation and gender violence. Those attending adult learning classes are more likely to shun these practices.
The journey to teaching
After training, Simon would teach them maths. Over time, he also began teaching basic English so that his fellow athletes could go into towns and markets to buy goods. Since then, Simon has never looked back. He has been a dedicated adult educator for more than 15 years.
A thirst for education
Statistics for 2019 indicated an illiteracy rate of 68.2% in the West Pokot region, with women representing the majority of those lacking literacy skills. The county government aims to halve this number by 2022, eventually bringing it to zero.
As Simon notes: 'We are struggling against the odds. Adult education has declined over the years due to lack of funding and, as life continues, staff continue to retire and there is no replacement at all'.
Beating the drum for adult education
For Simon, those benefits come in the form of being able to teach someone to read a book, operate a phone, or grow their own vegetables. In his view, it’s the small things that have the biggest impact.
The Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education
GRALE 5 combines survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policy-makers, researchers and practitioners with an up-to-date picture of the status of adult learning and education in UNESCO Member States.