An inquiry into the dynamics of intergenerational learning in URLCODA's adult literacy classes in Arua district, Uganda.
This study, conducted in Uganda, was set up to observe, record and analyse the pattern of interactions among the participants of URLCODA's adult literacy programme which has taken a semi-formal intergenerational form. Inspired by Vygotsky's ideas on mediation, more 'capable peers' and the Zone of Proximal Development, it was thought that intergenerational interactions in URLCODA's literacy programme could be harnessed to maximise learning among the participants which could become an alternative model for promoting literacy across the board regardless of age, sex, race, location and social status. The main research question that guided the study was: what happens in the intergenerational interactions in URLCODA's adult literacy programme attended by children in Arua district of Uganda and what are the motivational, enabling and limiting factors in such a teaching and learning arrangement? The study, which adopted a qualitative design, used observation, interviews, documentary analysis and photography to collect data from a sample of 32 participants. These were purposively selected from URLCODA's intergenerational literacy programme. It was important to conduct the study because URLCODA's adult literacy programme attended by children is rare and has not, to the best of my knowledge, been reported on anywhere in Uganda. The study was unique because the learning relationships between the adult and child learners were the reverse of the Vygotskian concept of mediation that interested me to undertake the study. This is because in the formal literacy and numeracy skills lessons, it was the child learners who played the role of 'more capable peers' and not the adult learners. The data collected revealed that the teaching methods were conformist in nature, the learners depended entirely on the instructors for the teaching/learning and reading materials, the participants were motivated by various factors of which personal, social and economic ones outweighed the rest, such as political and environmental ones, the intergenerational interactions appeared to be beneficial to both adult and child learners who all appeared to be enthusiastic about the programme, and the greatest challenge to the programme lay in the area of lack of resources on the part of the organisers and poverty on the part of the literacy learners. The study concluded that the interaction between the adult and child learners is beneficial for exchange of ideas, experiences, skills and beliefs which helps in shaping their behaviour in the class and outside the class. The programme has serious resource limitations and design deficiencies, especially in terms of the content of the curriculum that needs to be addressed urgently. The study recommended that URLCODA should seek support from the government and charitable organisations, liase with other organisations to institute credit schemes to support and strengthen the livelihood or functional nature of the programme, solicit and provide reading materials to the learners, put in place post-literacy programmes, further develop the intergenerational nature of the programme, offer training opportunities for the instructors, balance the curriculum to ensure that the programme meets the needs of all the participants and embark on fund-raising and other resource mobilisation drives to enable the programme achieve its intended goals. Finally the study identified a number of areas for further research. These include: the assessment of the impact of such an intergenerational programme on the performance of children in the primary schools in case of those attending Universal Primary Education (UPE), the assessment of the impact of the programme on the behaviour of children outside the literacy class and whether such a learning arrangement can create a democratic situation for the two groups to freely share information for enhancing learning opportunities and promoting the concept of lifelong learning.