UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)

Country Profile: Nigeria


148,980,000 (2007, UN estimate)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

70.8% (1990-2004)

Official Languages

English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Edo

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

72% (2004)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

84% (1995-2004)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 69%
  • Male: 78%
  • Female: 60%

Programme Overview

Programme TitleUNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)
Implementing OrganizationUniversity Village Association (UNIVA)
Language of InstructionMainly Yoruba and some English.
FundingPro-Literacy USA; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH)

Background and Context

Although Nigeria began its campaign against illiteracy during the colonial era, it was not until independence that literacy programmes gained increased momentum. In the 1950s, regional governments launched a free primary education programme to enable mass access to primary education, and in 1976, the central government introduced a compulsory, free Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme. The UPE programme ushered in an era of expanded growth for primary schools and education as a whole. Many teachers were trained through distance learning by the National Teachers Institute (NTI). In 1982, the government of Sheu Shagari launched a ten-year mass literacy campaign which included the establishment of state agencies whose main objective was to combat illiteracy in Nigeria. In 1996, the UNDP began to assist the literacy programmes with equipment, technical and financial resources. This enabled the government to transform the UPE into the Universal Basic Education scheme (UBE, 1999). Unlike the UPE, which endeavoured to promote access to primary education, the UBE sought to promote access to education for all, including adults, out-of-school youths, children and people living in special circumstances, such as nomads. During the period 1995-2004, these programmes raised the national literacy rate to 84% and 69% for youth and adults, respectively. Other efforts are currently underway to use the media, especially the radio, to reach the country’s 60 million and more illiterates.

However, a major weakness with these literacy campaigns is that they were not closely linked to adults' working life or their basic needs for economic and social development and empowerment. Rather than provide adults with functional literacy skills, which would have stimulated positive future perspectives, the programmes were reduced to basic literacy, which failed to provide them with knowledge for self-fulfilment and improved living standards. This approach was less attractive to adult learners and thus deterred some from participating in literacy training programmes. It was in this context that the University Village Association (UNIVA) initiated the UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP) to promote the development of literacy and livelihoods skills among adults.

The UNIVA Functional Literacy Programme (UFLP)

UFLP was initiated and formulated within the context of UNESCO's Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) and is being implemented by UNIVA, a registered NGO based at the University of Ibadan (Department of Adult Education). UNIVA begun as the Community Development and Health Project (CDLHP) in 1989 with support from the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH). In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, CDLHP was transformed to UNIVA in early 1995 and was officially registered as an NGO in 1996. UNIVA principally endeavours to complement government efforts in promoting literacy and development among rural and peri-urban communities through a) building bridges between the university and the community and between theory and practice in Adult Education; and b) promoting the co-operation of the university academic community and the village communities for development purposes.

Aims and Objectives

UFLP endeavours to:

Thematic Focus


UFLP integrates participants' literacy needs into their existing income generation or livelihoods activities. This enables participants to appreciate the value and relevance of literacy skills training as an instrument of socio-economic development. In order to cater for the specific literacy and livelihood skills needs of all learners, UFLP provides training in diverse thematic areas including:

This integrated approach was born out of the realisation that efforts to promote rural development and poverty eradication were being undermined by illiteracy and the lack of adult literacy programmes linked to livelihoods projects.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

Recruitment and Training of Trainers

With support from Pro-Literacy World-Wide, UNIVA recruited project supervisors and facilitators, particularly school teachers, and trained them in adult education teaching methodologies, adult literacy class management and the effective use of ICTs for business purposes.

Recruitment of Learners

Needs assessment surveys and advocacy campaigns were used to select two community-based business groups, the Gbekuba Women’s Group and the National Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), to participate in UFLP. In the same way, a community-based recruitment process relying on the voluntary support of local leaders was used to mobilise individuals to participate in the programme. The involvement of community leaders had the added advantage of attracting those people whose involvement was considered most likely to bring about community improvement.

Today, members of these groups are engaged in a variety of small-scale business projects for the purposes of generating income. Gbekuba Women’s Group members mostly engage in trading goods, catering, designing and creating clothing, dying cloth and making pomades. Most members of NATA are drivers and motor mechanics who have completed, at most, basic primary education and therefore face great challenges in the evolving and competitive world of business. Given that their lack of functional literacy skills affects the viability of their businesses, it was therefore imperative to encourage members of these two organizations to participate in UFLP.

Training Approaches and Methodologies


Programme participants receive six months of functional literacy training during which they attend two-hour classes three times a week. In total, they receive 72 lessons over the six-month period.

UFLP employs a variety of innovative, motivational and practically relevant training methods in order to attract and retain learners, including:

The use of everyday sources of information is intended to further consolidate the learners’ literacy skills and afford them opportunities to practice newly acquired skills. Furthermore, classes simulate demanding situations such as how to respond to customers who request a receipt. Learner-centred approaches to literacy training like this one motivate learners to participate confidently and actively in programme activities.

At the end of the training course, all learners are awarded certificates at public graduation ceremonies which are witnessed by and celebrated together with other members of the community, government officials and the media. Public participation at the graduation ceremonies validates and enhances the value of the programme in the public sphere.


Although all programme participants are awarded certificates regardless of their performance, the certificates are graded as follows: A for a pass and B to indicate that remedial training is required. It is critical that all participants receive a certificate as this motivates them to participate in advanced training. Most importantly of all, it also ensures that learners who under-perform are not 'publicly' humiliated.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

Despite its meagre resources, UNIVA has succeeded in empowering many rural and peri-urban people through work-related literacy skills training. In the ten years since its inception, UNIVA has trained over 5, 000 learners in functional literacy skills. These beneficiaries have been empowered to use these skills to improve their living standards, as well as the viability of their businesses and income generating activities.

In September 1999, UNIVA received public acknowledgement for its contribution to poverty alleviation and literacy development in Nigeria when it was commended by the Director-General of UNESCO on International Literacy Day.

The following testimonies from programme participants amply demonstrate UNIVA's success in promoting literacy and livelihood development:


Notwithstanding its strength and successes over the years, UNIVA faces a number of challenges, in particular the withdrawal of participants from the programme due to time constraints. Furthermore, UNIVA has been unable to conduct a baseline study of what works and what does not; what livelihood activities most people are engaged in; and what they wish to learn in order to enhance their livelihoods.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

The following key lessons emerged from programme activities:


The programme has helped to improve the socio-economic status and living standards of the participants. This serves to underscore UNIVA’s conviction that the promotion of literacy is a crucial instrument for social empowerment, poverty alleviation and development, particularly when it involves the participation of the entire community and receives support from technical institutions. Such provisions are particularly effective for women, who are generally more inclined to spread the benefits of literacy widely.


Contact Details

Rashid Aderinoye
Associate Professor
Department of Adult Education
University of Ibadan, Nigeria
e-mail:rasrade (at) yahoo.com