4.2.2 El Salvador
In November 1993 a team of four people (Oscar Garciaguierra and Marden Nochez Bonilla from CIAZO, David Archer from ACTIONAID UK and Abdon Machado Alvarez from COMUS) worked together over four weeks in order to develop a REFLECT manual adapted to the local context. In consultation with the leadership of COMUS the central objectives of the literacy programme were to promote participation, community development and local action.
The manual had the following:
Visual cards were prepared by Alfredo Burgos in January 1994 - a total of 180 cards (which was too many). Although the cards were very well drawn and had some good comic detail to stimulate learners, they were in the end too detailed and almost impossible to use. They were not numbered or colour-coded and had no words written on them or any reference list. Given these shortcomings, despite being good pictures they were barely used.
The first training began in January/ February 1994 and the majority of the literacy circles opened in March 1994. Training was undertaken by the COMUS Promoter (initially only one) and the CIAZO adviser.
The Promoters and the Technical Adviser
The literacy programme was effectively organised by the education promoter in COMUS, Abdon Machado, a forty year old man who was illiterate himself until the age of 23. Two other literacy promoters joined during the year (Ovilio, who has just third grade primary education and Juan who started as a voluntary literacy teacher). Training and support in the process of documenting the experience was provided by the CIAZO adviser, Oscar. The contrast of styles between Oscar (who is from an urban, middle class educated family) and Abdon (who is a campesino) led to considerable tensions and personality clashes at times. Nevertheless, both had something important to offer to the programme.
The Literacy facilitators
A total of 23 literacy facilitators received training. Some of them have left (eg there have been five changes of facilitators in Galingagua and four changes in EL Zungano). In some literacy circles there were two facilitators who rotated or who shared the work in various ways. All the facilitators came from the communities where they worked and were either nominated by their community or volunteered at a community assembly. The work was completely voluntary and so it was sometimes difficult to find willing people and there was little prospect of selecting those who were "suitable" -the promoters felt anyone who was willing to try should be offered training.
Each facilitator who volunteered was given ten days initial training and then attended two days a month follow-up training in which facilitators shared their experiences and planned for the coming weeks. The facilitators received travel costs and food for the training days which was considered essential to maintain their involvement. Some other small tokens of appreciation have been given such as small rucksacks and baseball caps.
There has been a lively debate about the nature of voluntary work and whether honorariums or stipends should be paid. Certainly payment for training days (when they miss whole days which could otherwise be spent productively in their fields) seemed essential and there were some tensions when this was nearly stopped. However, the motivation of the facilitators is impressively high. Over 80% of the facilitators say their primary aim has been to "help others". Other motivations that were mentioned were the desire to exchange experiences with others (mentioned by 47%), the desire to learn more themselves (40%) or to gain new experiences (27%).
Asked the question: "Who are you working with?" the majority (67%) mentioned their community (instead of ClAZO or COMUS). Asked "Who are you working for?" the answer was even stronger (87% said, "my community"). This was felt to be an important indicator that the facilitators were genuinely working out of commitment.
Most literacy facilitators had an education level around 6th grade primary. Some had received just three years of primary schooling and had difficulty reading and writing themselves (but wanted to share the little that they knew). Others had attended secondary school. This range of education levels was found to be very important in the evaluation.
One of the definite achievements of the literacy programme, mentioned by all observers, has been the development of a strong team feeling amongst the literacy facilitators. In general 18 arrive at each training day and they spend an evening together each month, often singing or telling stories. They have formed a formal committee to allocate responsibilities between them and they have even formed a musical group which tours villages, playing when new literacy classes are opened (with songs specially written for the occasions). In each village the literacy facilitators have also helped to form an education committee which addresses not just questions of adult literacy but also education provision for children.
Most literacy circles started up with between 10 and 20 people Most of the learners were men (only 32% were women), a fact which may relate in part to the lack of gender sensitivity in the rest of the work of COMUS. All the learners were peasants who made a living from the land, whether working in cooperatives, being small-holders or scraping a living as landless labourers on large plantations. The main motivation of the learners was, of course, to learn to read and write. However, more than half also mentioned a desire to learn numeracy, 19% expected that they would discuss local issues and 10% said their aim was generally to help the cooperative. Joining the literacy circle was not always easy for the learners: almost a third of learners said their friends laughed at them and ten percent of learners even faced laughter within their own family.
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