In 1997 the government of Uganda launched the Universal Primary Education (UPE) Programme that made it free and compulsory for school age children between the ages of 6 and 12 to attend primary (grade) school. The programme has since faced a number of challenges, the most pressing being a high drop out rate - of the 2.1 million pupils who entered Primary (grade) 1 in 1997, only 22.5% were still in school by 2003. FABE aims to address the challenges raised by the UPE programme and the National Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Programme.
FABE was launched in Bugiri district, Uganda in September, 2001 .The project is managed by Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE) Uganda, an indigenous national level NGO. FABE targets 1080 parents (especially mothers with low literacy rates), 2880 children in primary (grade) 1 and primary (grade) 2, 18 School Management Committees, and 18 school PTAs. It also targets 72 primary (grade) 1 and primary (grade) 2 teachers and 36 adult literacy instructors in rural communities.
Initially the project was limited to Bugiri district located in eastern Uganda, one of the country's poorest districts. It is also the poorest performing district in academics. FABE related work has since started in 8 other districts of Uganda with new programmes picking elements from the initial FABE pilot project in Bugiri.
The FABE project contributes to addressing the high drop out rate by making school more enjoyable and challenging for the child. This is achieved by training teachers in interesting ways of working with children, using learning materials creatively and actively engaging parents within the learning system so that they can appreciate the importance of keeping their children in school.
FABE also contributes to community involvement by equipping parents with parenting, literacy and numerical skills, and sensitizing parents and school PTAs on their roles and responsibilities in children's education. According to the National Adult Literacy Strategic Investment Plan (2002 - 2007), the women's literacy rate in Uganda is 51% while that for men is 77%. A 1999 Uganda Government/World Bank study showed a positive link between access and support to a primary school child and parental literacy.
In the process of facilitating adult literacy classes, rural literacy instructors have identified a need to develop more tailored literacy content that will enable parents to support their children's learning activities, especially in lower primary (grade) classes. Although the initial approach was for parents to learn and use literacy materials with their children, a Rural Rapid Appraisal (RRA) undertaken pointed towards broader adult basic education needs, rather than narrowing it to only school content. The RRA findings, documentary review, and discussions with teachers and other key education players in Bugiri, revealed that there is a need to increase parental awareness of the value of education and their roles towards children's education. This would include material and financial support as well as support to reinforce their children's learning - like checking schoolbooks, visiting schoolteachers, and helping children with homework. The findings also pointed out a need to create favorable educational practices that encourage a link between school learning and community indigenous knowledge and practices.
FABE's innovativeness lies in its concept, activities and implementation strategies. These are the strengthening of parental ability to support children' learning at school and at home, the use of locally available materials as learning aids, adult literacy instructors supporting teachers in classrooms which enables better planning, the use of folk tales to deliver learning across the curriculum and to provide good links to literacy and numeracy, introductory sessions for parents only at the start of joint learning sessions, and the presence of parents learning together with children in class. All these elements of the FABE programme builds up to enhanced community support and involvement in primary (grade) school education work.
The following indicators show the overall impact of the process in Bugiri district:
The number and frequency of parents visiting school
The number and variety of joint school - community education plans
The number of children attending school on a daily basis
The frequency of family dialogue on education issues
The levels of improved reading, writing, numerical and parental skills of parents
The increased availability of learning materials and rate of use of interactive teaching methods by teachers
The number of parents providing basic needs, space for learning, local learning resources and learning with the children and helping them do home work