At a colourful and joyful celebration, the Twizimbe Centre Integrated Development Program marked International Literacy Day.  In a special way they honoured the 1427 men and women who bravely overcame the 'shame' of illiteracy and participated in the Functional Adult Literacy Program since 1997.

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The Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Program at Twizimbe Centre started in 1997 by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters and co-workers as a response to the expressed needs of the people in Mbikko Parish. Initially twelve women registered and with the help of a few friends from Kampala and the syllabus obtained from the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Mukono District, the FAL program was launched. Gradually the number of learners increased and today in 2011 there are 827 'graduates' of the program. Those who persevered sat for examinations and 'graduated' with FAL Certificates. Of these 80% are engaged in some income generating activity, well able to manage and account for money; some participate in local councils (political); one has reached university level; many went on to complete formal education; some are FAL instructors; and others work in the factories around Mbikko.  The many songs, dances, speeches, all alluded to the great achievement of the participants and rejoiced at the confidence that had replaced the pervading sense of “shame” at being illiterate.

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All those present at the celebration rejoiced with the participants and in their speeches, the civic and church leaders paid tribute to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters and the team at Twizimbe Centre for initiating this program.  Other components of the integrated program include Education for Life (HIV prevention), a Community Based Health Care programme and a programme for the empowerment for self-reliance of widows.

International Literacy Day (ILD) was first declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1967 to be observed on 8th September each year. Uganda being a UNESCO member state has observed this day since 2002. The theme for this year's ILD was "Literacy and Empowerment for Improved Livelihoods".

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Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) targets people who missed out on the formal education programme, usually adults who may not be in a position to enrol under the formal education system. FAL has been identified as one of the major tools for empowering community members and hence poverty eradication. Under this programme adult learners undergo basic training in reading, writing and numeracy (3 R's) using a language appropriate to them and in this case, "mother tongue". In addition, learners are also equipped with lifelong functional skills to exploit available income generating and life-improving opportunities for poverty eradication.

Evidence from evaluation studies on the impact of FAL shows that the graduates of FAL have taken on management and leadership roles in community groups, keep better records for their income generating activities and are increasingly accessing support from various development programmes. They also support their children's education, have improved nutrition, hygiene and health in their families and are in a position to influence community decisions.
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Sr. Maureen Carroll OSF