How to Launch an Adult Education Program
I met Florence on my last day in Makueni, a drought-affected district in Eastern Kenya. Florence gained experience forming and training twenty saving and lending groups as a part-time community outreach facilitator on an integrated conservation project in a nearby area, before she started her current job as an adult education coordinator with the Ministry of Education. She has since cut all formal ties with the conservation project, even returning her bicycle, but she continues to promote savings groups in her new role. In a bold initiative, Florence proposed integrating savings groups into the struggling adult education program, increasing its effectiveness, while simultaneously helping communities to better manage their finances and organizing them to solicit additional donor support. This is her story:
When I started work with the Ministry of Education Adult Education Program, I was tasked with organizing five adult education programs. I’d invite the community members to attend classes, but often no one showed up and I’d leave frustrated. Most of my students would skip class since they couldn’t take time away from their livelihoods. They couldn’t afford to buy books or notebooks, and teaching was challenging. I wasn’t able do the job I’d been asked, and was nowhere close to the targets set by the Ministry of Education.
After three months of attempting to launch adult education programs with little success, I went to my supervisor. What I needed was some way to mobilize the communities. I’d seen savings groups work before, and I knew that they could mobilize people and even help members to organize their cash to buy educational materials. I proposed that we try integrating savings into the adult education program, and thankfully my supervisor was open to the idea; he agreed to give me the support to try.
It wasn’t a simple process. I started by identifying five sub-locations within my region and worked with the communities to elect five field facilitators to mobilize at the village level. I began with existing informal savings groups: merry-go-rounds, groups saving for Christmas (who give their savings to the local money-lender each month to relend and return in December), and groups saving for food, meeting to collect for a communal meal. The groups had experience working together, but the money-lenders benefiting from the ready supply of cash were against transitioning to the new methodology. Many tried to convince their members that savings groups were bad, undermining local traditions.
I knew I needed to set a strong example as to why savings groups are better for members, so I took training seriously. I started with an individual self-screening, training on group formation, objectives, saving and lending and the value of a social security fund, leadership and elections, developing a constitution, record-keeping and the correct meeting procedures. In May of this year, I had twenty groups saving.
I didn’t stop with savings. I saw that the groups needed more support, so I formed clusters of groups into larger community-based organizations, so that we could better approach donors. We met with Heifer International and the Ministry of Agriculture, and Heifer International agreed to give the group members livestock, while the Ministry offered training in drought resistant crops.
So what’s in it for me? Well, I’ve learned so much. I work with the savings groups to solicit donor assistance in the form of livestock and agricultural trainings, and I am also trained. I have learned how to mobilize communities. I am working with 32 savings groups, and am helping approximately 600 people to save and access loans. And now I am able to do my job. Since integrating savings groups into the Adult Education Program, I have launched five adult education centers and have a total of 182 students. My students can afford books. They can now borrow money if they need to take time away from work. They are mobilized, now people attend class.
Florence is trained on Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) methodology by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Kenya. Her first position as a community outreach facilitator was with the Catholic Diocese of Machakos on the Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Consortium (ARC) project.
Reader Comments (1)
What an inspiring tale and indeed well-told.
Fri, September 16, 2011 | Kim Wilson