Integrated Community-Based Adult Education (ICBAE)

Country Profile: Tanzania, United Republic Of


49,253,000 (2013)

Official language

Kiswahili and English

Other officially recognised languages

Chagga, Makonde and Datooga

Poverty (population living below the national poverty line of US$ 1.25)

68% (2007)

Youth literacy rate (15-24 years)

Total: 85.9%
Male: 87.2%
Female: 84.8%

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over)

Total: 79.0%
Male: 84.1%
Female: 74.4%


UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Programme Overview

Programme TitleIntegrated Community-Based Adult Education (ICBAE)
Implementing OrganizationMinistry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT)
Language of InstructionKiswahili
FundingGovernment of the United Republic of Tanzania
Annual Programme CostsTZS 2,000,000,000 (equivalent to US $927,900)
Date of Inception1993

Country Context

The United Republic of Tanzania was established in 1964, when mainland Tanzania and the Island of Zanzibar gained independence from British colonial rule and sultanate rule, respectively. Since independence, the country has focused on improving economic growth and reducing poverty, introducing a number of policies and strategies in order to achieve its aims. In 1999, the government adopted a long-term strategy for the United Republic of Tanzania, the National Development Vision 2025, with the ultimate aim of transforming Tanzania into a middle-income country, with high living standards, equity and a well-educated society.

According to the World Bank, over the past decade, Tanzania’s economy has recorded steady annual GDP growth of around 7 per cent (World Bank, 2014). However, this growth did not have a significant impact on poverty reduction; more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of the population still live on less than US $1. 25 per day (UIS, 2007). In addition, gender inequality remains a major challenge to the country's socio-economic development. Many studies have shown that gender inequality is one of the underlying causes of poverty, as most women do not have equal rights when it comes to assets, employment and access to education (EFA national report, 2014).

One of the main objectives of the National Development Vision 2025 is to create a well-educated, learning society imbued with an ambition to develop. Tanzania established various education plans and strategies, which are also intended to contribute to meeting the Education for All (EFA) goals. The main focus has been on early childhood care and education, equitable access to all levels of education, vocational education, teacher education and adult, non-formal and continuing education.

In 2002, the government made primary education compulsory and free, which increased access and participation at this level of education. Enrolment rose from 4.9 million in 2001 to 8.2 million in 2013 (UIS, 2001, 2013). Unfortunately, the country has not been able to achieve EFA Goal 4, the achievement of a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. A national literacy census, conducted in 1992, revealed that adult literacy rates were on the decrease. In response, in 1993, the government launched the Integrated Community Based Adult Education programme. The programme was designed, in part, to address the shortcoming of previous adult education programmes, which included: top-down approaches to planning, teacher-centred methodologies and fixed curricula which were not relevant to learners' needs.

Programme Overview

The Integrated Community Based Adult Education (ICBAE) programme started as a four-year pilot project designed to develop learner-centred and community-based learning approaches in literacy and post-literacy classes for adults and out-of-school youth in Tanzania. According to the programme evaluation conducted in 1997, the literacy rates in four piloted areas increased by 13 per cent (Mushi, 2009), which resulted in a gradual expansion of the programme. Currently, the ICBAE programme operates across Tanzanian, striving to ensure equitable access to quality literacy and post-literacy classes for young people and adults. Four years after the inception of the programme, the ICBAE adopted the REFLECT (Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques) approach, through which it links literacy and basic education to the issues of problem-solving and socio-economic development. Learners are empowered to discuss and analyse key issues in their communities and the programme assists them in starting mini projects (income-generating activities) which will bring about social and economic change. Learners do not receive a certificate on the completion of the programme, but with the literacy, vocational and life skills they have acquired, they are able to rely on their own knowledge and continue with income-generating activities, which enable them to support themselves and their families.

A literacy class.

A literacy class.

Aims and Objectives

The central objective of the Integrated Community Based Adult Education programme is to promote equitable access to quality basic education while increasing participation and enabling young people and adults to acquire literacy skills and reach a sustainable proficiency level. They also acquire vocational and life skills, using the REFLECT methodology, which help them to improve their livelihoods. Other aims and objectives of the programme are to:

Programme Implementation

The programme is implemented across all 25 regions of the Tanzanian mainland. Learning centres are located in primary schools and the learning cycle lasts 18 months. Once learners enrol, they are organized into groups, which are known as literacy circles. There is more than one literacy circle in each learning centre. A literacy circle can have up to 30 learners, led by one facilitator. The language of instruction is Kiswahili. Learners meet three times per week, usually in the evenings once the children have finished school and gone home. Facilitators have manuals which contain relevant topics in agriculture and micro-economics, health and hygiene, and socio-politics. However, the curriculum is very flexible, allowing learners to focus more on the topics which are most relevant to them or which interest them the most. Learners do not receive textbooks. Instead, using the REFLECT approach, each literacy circle addresses key issues in their communities, designs learning activities, participates in problem-solving, and plans income-generating activities. Learners at different levels of literacy are enrolled in the same literacy circle and work together and learn from each other. Learners who need additional help with their literacy skills spend more time with the facilitator, and, as there are no textbooks, facilitators use manuals and newspapers to teach literacy.

Learners of a literacy cycle monitoring their beehives, in Mvomero, Morogoro, Eastern Tanzania

Learners of a literacy cycle monitoring their beehives, in Mvomero, Morogoro, Eastern Tanzania

Income-Generating Activities

Through the REFLECT approach, learners address issues of concern in their community. Based on their interest, and the financial and natural resources available to them, they plan an income-generating activity to improve their livelihoods. After completing the six-month course, learners spend the remaining months of the learning cycle doing practical work related to the income-generating activity of their choice. The literacy circle facilitators are not employed during this stage. Instead, learners are guided by agricultural trainers, employees of the Ministry of Agriculture known as extension officers, who provide learners with information and demonstrations of how to put existing and newly acquired knowledge into practice and in income-generating activities. In addition, learners who already have advanced knowledge and experience of a certain activity have the opportunity to act as assistants in class, supporting peers to perform better.

Learners have been engaged in a range of income-generating activities, including: furniture making, cattle raising, tailoring, shoe repairing, baking, crocheting, tree planting and fishing, as well as running a social centre, women’s clinic, hair salons, and so on. They form groups, choose an income-generating activity that interests them and work together on the activity to generate income. They agree as a group how they will divide their profits.

The ICBAE programme provides a mechanism for implementing income-generating activities through the provision of the Revolving Loan Fund. The loans range from between US $100 and US $300 per literacy circle. Learners receive the loan as a group. For example, a group of women from one literacy circle decided that they wanted to make school uniforms. With the help of the facilitator, they found a local tailor who taught them how to sew. They applied for the loan, and, once they received it, were able to purchase a sewing machine to support their income-generating activity. The facilitator also teaches learners the basics of book-keeping. When an activity starts generating income, the learners repay the loan at an interest rate of one per cent. Literacy is very important to the successful planning and implementation of an income-generating activity as it allows learners to undertake simple accounting and book-keeping.

Recruitment and Training of Teachers

The teachers who facilitate the literacy circles are employed as paid volunteers. They are paid by the Tanzanian Government through local government authorities. The monthly remuneration is TZS 50,000, which is equivalent to US $25. As facilitators, they involve learners and encourage them to participate, share knowledge and experience, and contribute to the development of the class curriculum. Each facilitator is supervised by the head teacher of the primary school at which the literacy circle is based. Head teachers also provide support to the facilitators. In some cases, elementary school teachers are chosen as literacy circle facilitators because of their experience in teaching literacy skills.

All facilitators receive manuals on REFLECT methodology. They were originally expected to attend four weeks of training on the methodology; however, since 2005, funding has not been available to conduct the training, as adult education and literacy are not among the strategic priorities of local authorities.

Training of facilitators.

Training of facilitators.

Enrolment of Learners

The ICBAE programme is aimed at young people and adults who learn about the programme from other community members. Income-generating activities and the Revolving Loan Fund are incentives for learners to join the programme. When people see learners from the ICBAE programme launching their income-generating activities, selling their products and earning money, they too are encouraged to join. Once the learners are enrolled and the course starts, the facilitator identifies those who lack reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

Programme Content

Content covers knowledge and skills relevant to the acquisition of the literacy, life and vocational skills necessary for conducting the chosen income-generating activities. The main topics and themes include:

Learners with very low levels of literacy skills are offered some additional time, under the supervision of the facilitators, to learn and practice reading and writing. To teach literacy and numeracy, facilitators use different materials, such as alphabet books, newspapers, and ICBAE manuals which cover the above mentioned topics of Agriculture and Micro-Economics, Health and Hygiene and Socio-Political Education. The materials are also distributed to the learners. At the beginning of the class, teacher picks some key words and sentences related to the topic and writes them on the board. Learners practice reading and writing these key words and sentences.

The curriculum of the programme is very flexible and it is based on the needs assessment conducted to determine the needs of the learners. Needs assessment analysis is conducted through semi-structured interviews with learners, either at the beginning or during the course. If learners of a particular literacy circle are mostly interested in livestock keeping (for example), and want to choose that as their income-generating activity, then the facilitator will spend more time covering that topic, even though he/she will also teach the rest of the topics important for learners' life.

Teaching Material and Methods

A facilitator showing what his group of learners has prepared in Bukoba, Karagwe, Northern, Tanzania.

A facilitator showing what his group of learners has prepared in Bukoba, Karagwe, Northern, Tanzania.

The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training adopted REFLECT methodology in 1998. The methodology promotes a process of participatory learning that empowers people to critically examine their environment, identify their problems, discuss and analyse them, and come up with practical solutions for sustainable development. The primary teaching materials are facilitators' manuals which cover topics relevant to learners and their context, such as agriculture and micro-economics, health and hygiene, and socio-political education.

In line with the REFLECT methodology, facilitators conduct teaching and learning activities using participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools, which encourage learners to develop their own learning aids and activities. In course sessions, learners decide what they want to learn, and what actions they will carry out in order for learning to take place. Under the supervision of the facilitator, learners create maps, charts and Venn diagrams, while also developing activities, such as drama, story-telling and songs. Using participatory tools in literacy circles helps to:

Learners are given the chance to approach certain activities more practically. For example, if the topic is ‘how to reduce expenditure and increase income’, an ‘income generation tree’ graphic is used. The learners draw the tree on the ground. The roots represent the income while on the leaves they indicate all activities for which they need money, for example, paying school fees. Those who are planning to pay for school fees raise their hands and the total number is written on the respective leaf.

Learning Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation

Literacy  class in session, in Kiroka, Morogoro, Eastern Tanzania.

Literacy class in session, in Kiroka, Morogoro, Eastern Tanzania.

The monitoring of the programme’s implementation is conducted through field visits that involve classroom observation. The field visits are conducted by national adult education officers, district adult education coordinators and ward education coordinators. In addition, discussions are held with learners in order to gather feedback as to the quality of implementation.

Follow-up home visits are conducted with graduates from the programme. During these visits, graduates are asked how, if at all, they make use of the knowledge and skills they acquired during the course, in improving their daily lives, and supporting and providing for their families. This is also assessed through observation: for example, if a learner was engaged in tree planting activity, does he or she take care of their own garden, and has he or she managed to develop a small business or find work after the programme? This is a way of evaluating the outcomes explicitly adopted by the programme, since learners' progress since graduating should indicate the extent to which the programme has influenced their lives.

In terms of literacy, learners' progress is measured through tasks and activities given to them by the facilitator. There are no standardized tests, as yet.

Impact and Challenges


Since its inception, the programme has increased access to basic adult education, offering educational opportunities to approximately 14,000,000 young people and adult learners. The programme has achieved a high percentage of female enrolment, at around 55 per cent.

Enrolment of Learners in ICBAE Learning Centres 2000–2014


With regards to literacy skill levels, between 2005 and 2014, around 3,000,000 learners with initially very low level of literacy skills managed to acquire literacy skills which helped them in conducting their income-generating activities. As noted above, this is essential as they need to be able to carry out basic book-keeping in order to show income, expenditure and profit.

Over the same period, around 6,000,000 learners acquired knowledge and skills in various income-generating activities. Using the income they have earned through these income-generating activities, learners have been able to improve their lives through the more balanced diet they can now afford, by paying school fees for their children and by living in more financially stable households.

Learners' testimonies

An adult learner in Iramba, Singida, Central Tanzania, remarked:

‘ICBAE centres have greatly improved our lifestyles through the income-generating activities, the credit schemes, and have motivated others to join.’ A female learner aged 45 years from Ilala, Dar Es Salaam said: ‘I did not know how to read and write. But now I can. I can record what I am earning and my expenditure.’

A a female ward adult education coordinator commented:

‘The annual celebration of Adult Education Week is very important as it encourages the community to participate and understand what adult education is being performed at centres …. Also, the example of the different activities of the learners motivates other illiterate adults to join the classes as they can learn in a wcy that suits their needs while also developing the skills to produce through income-generating activities.’

A female adult learner from Qudan’gonyi ICBAE Centre in Hanang District said:

‘You can see us participating fully in repairing shoes, which was previously looked on as a job for males, but now the ICBAE has empowered us. I can read books, newspapers and write letters to my friends. Besides that, we have formed an income-generating activity, we repair shoes for people in the community and earn income to support our families. (Bwatwa and Kamwela,, 2010, p. 57)


Lessons Learned


The sustainability of the programme depends on the funds received from the Tanzanian Government, through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. According to the National Development Vision 2025, the United Republic of Tanzania is striving towards both social and economic development, and sees education as one of the tools for achieving it. In addition, no rent is paid for the use the primary school premises, as the Education Act 1978 states that programmes for adult education can be located in every educational institution.

The use of the Revolving Loan Fund helps learners to implement income-generating activities, but it also supports the programme’s sustainability, as the learners return the loan with interest. This allows the loans to be allocated to other income-generating activities.

Over the years, the programme has developed partnerships with governmental, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, including the Tanzania Education Network (TENMET), the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. TENMET, as an umbrella NGO organization, coordinates all the non-governmental organizations that support education. This gives the ICBAE programme an opportunity to work with many different NGOs. The partnerships with government departments are also important. For example, because health care is one of the components of the programme, when there is an activity on health matters, the Ministry of Health selects relevant officers to give lectures. Similarly, employees from the Ministry of Agriculture assist learners with activities related to agriculture.



Mrs Basilina M. Levira
Assistant Director, Adult and Non-Formal Education
Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
7 Magogoni Road
P. O. Box 9121
11479 Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Last update: 4 April 2016