Family Basic Education (FABE)

Country Profile: Uganda


36,573,000 (2013)

Official Language

English and Swahili

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP

2.2% (2013)

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

93.65% (2013)

Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)
  • Total: 87% (2015)
  • Female: 86.57
  • Male: 87.4%
Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 73.86% (2015)
  • Female: 66.89%
  • Male: 80.85%

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Programme Overview

Programme TitleFamily Basic Education (FABE)
Implementing OrganizationLiteracy and Adult Education (LABE)
Language of InstructionLocal languages
FundingCOMIC Relief, Oxfam, DFID (UK) and NOVIB (Netherlands)
Date of Inception2003–2005

Contextual Overview

In recent years, the government of Uganda has introduced programmes and critical policy instruments that seek to eradicate poverty and illiteracy and thus to promote national development and transformation by making education accessible to all. In 1997, for example, the government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) which provides free primary education. As a result of UPE, the national rate of enrolment in primary school education rose dramatically from 2.5 million in 1997 to 7.2 million in 2000. By 2005, the net intake rate (NIR) in primary education had risen to 66%. This enrolment expansion was not, however, accompanied by an increase in the provision of essential materials and teaching resources to schools or by the training of more teachers, an aspect which compromised the quality of education. Most critically, many primary school children failed to proceed to secondary level due to financial constraints. In 2004, for example, only 37.4% of primary school graduates made the transition from primary to secondary general education. In 2007, the government introduced Universal Secondary Education (USE) which seeks to make secondary education accessible to all children. However, challenges still remain with regard to the quality of and access to education, especially for rural-based children and those in the conflict-affected northern region.

The government also introduced the Functional Adult Literacy Programme (FAL) as a component of the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). The FAL programme endeavoured to improve literacy levels among adults as well as to empower people to demand access to quality basic social services. However, the FAL programme has managed to reach only some 5% of would-be learners and has thus not benefited many people. Implementation of the PEAP was hindered by the fact that information on available services is in printed form; consequently, for citizens to claim their rights, they must master literacy and numeracy – skills which adults do not necessarily possess. The shortcomings in the provision of education to children and basic literacy skills to adults made the implementation of the Family Basic Education (FABE) programme imperative.

Family Basic Education (FABE) Programme


The FABE programme was initiated and is currently being implemented by LABE (Literacy and Adult Basic Education), a leading local NGO in the field of basic education. LABE's interest in family education projects began in the mid-1990s as a new dimension to its adult literacy work in rural areas. LABE piloted the programme in the Bugiri district of Eastern Uganda (one of the country’s poorest districts) in 2000-2001, and by 2005 the programme was active in 18 schools and many adult literacy centres, reaching over 1,400 parents and more than 3,300 children. The programme has now been expanded to northern Uganda, a war-affected region, where it is being implemented in over 600 villages in 8 districts.

The expansion of the programme was, to a large extent, community (demand) driven. As parents realised the value of literacy, they were motivated to support their children to access education as well as to assist them in the learning process. However, they were constrained in these endeavours by their lack of literacy skills. In response to the demand for adult learning and the enthusiasm for education generally, LABE felt the need to expand the pilot project as well as to support education plans that had been initiated by community school management committees, concerned parents, local governments and district education officials. In pursuit of this, LABE also negotiated with Comic Relief (UK) through Education Action International in orded to secure financial and technical assistance for the project. FABE has continued to grow ever since. Additional resources to expand in northern Uganda have been received from DFID (UK) and NOVIB (Netherlands).

Programme Justification and Objectives

FABE targets rural families (out-of-school children/youth and adults), as well as school-going children, school teachers and adult literacy facilitators. Most rural primary schools perform well below the national average, while adult literacy levels (particularly for women) are among the lowest in the country as adults in rural locations have had limited access to formal school education. The programme works with teachers and adult educators whose capacities are built through training in adult/family literacy teaching methodologies and curriculum.

The programme aims to:

Approaches and Methodologies

The programme has five major thematic components:

This structure informs the programme content, approaches and methodologies that are employed to satisfy the needs and abilities of each respective target group of learners/beneficiaries.


The programme combines the use of professional teachers (mostly primary school teachers) and para-professional adult educators (adult literacy educators). English and Lusoga (or other local languages) are the languages of instruction.

The Adult Literacy Educators (ALE) receive formal training in literacy, numeracy and adult teaching methods. The initial training for ALEs lasts for about 2 weeks, after which they attend refresher and mentoring training courses throughout the year. The training of adult educators is conducted by LABE professional trainers. School teachers (serving or retired) also receive orientation training. This, however is not as intensive as the training designed for ALEs because, unlike ALEs, teachers are already qualified, having received the full 12 years of formal school education plus 2 years of professional teacher training. ALEs tend to have an average of just 8 years of formal school education and may additionally have attended a number of short training courses. Apart from Family Literacy training, the train-the-trainer project also encompasses training courses in health (e.g. TB, HIV/AIDS, and nutrition), agriculture and other developmental issues. LABE has developed a teaching manual for adult educators and teachers and introduced various participatory techniques to complement teachers’ existing materials.

Classroom Based Learning

The purpose is to enrich the government’s centrally developed thematic approach to literacy and numeracy teaching. School teachers are introduced to various participatory approaches used in adult literacy sessions. As they learn relevant systematic approaches in teaching, reading, writing and numeracy, the adult literacy educators act as co-teachers of school teachers.

Adult Basic Literacy Learning

The curriculum for Adult Basic Literacy Learning (pictures 1A and B) is partly based on the school literacy and numeracy curriculum but is structured differently to suit and satisfy the broader needs and abilities of adult learners. The integration of the Adult Literacy curriculum into the school curriculum is intended to create linkages and continuity between the school and home learning processes and thereby enable parents and children to assist each other in the during the home-based learning process. However, as adults master basic literacy skills such as reading, counting and writing, their curriculum is further developed to focus on "life themes" and thus to use the learning process as a method of addressing or discussing issues that are more pertinent and relevant to their everyday lives. These themes include health, environment, good farming practices and HIV/AIDS. Such an approach has the added advantage of generating motivation among adult learners, as the learning process will be seen as a practical way of solving community challenges and and addressing cross-generational learning needs.

Picture 1B

Picture 1B

Picture 1A

Picture 1A

Classroom Based Family Learning

These are joint learning sessions which bring children and their parents together in formal classroom settings (pictures 2A, B and C). These sessions combine activities from the formal school curriculum with “life themes” from the Adult Basic Education programme. Issues discussed include, amongst others, the environment, health, civic education, non-violent conflict resolution strategies, peace building, human rights and culture. The joint parent-child sessions are designed and structured to build shared learning experiences as well as to promote home learning activities which complement school learning. Learning methods during the joint parent-child sessions include: playing games, focus group discussions, debates and story telling. Children are also encouraged to write stories based on these activities. Hence, the programme genuinely facilitates intergenerational learning.

Picture 2A

Picture 2A

In addition, the sessions also enhance the process of relationship-building between children and their parents and between the school (teachers) and the wider community. This gives parents a sense of ownership and responsibility with regard to their children’s learning process and the development and functioning of the schools. It also further motivates parents to promote and sustain the development of wider issues outside the school context e.g. the causes of domestic violence.

Picture 2C

Picture 2C

Picture 2B

Picture 2B

Home Based Family Learning

A variety of methods are used in home learning. These include: story telling, folklore, games, assisted learning (pictures 3A and B) and other activities. This is intended to extend school learning to children’s homes while at the same time actively involving parents in the children's learning process above and beyond the narrow scope of the school curriculum.

Picture 3B

Picture 3B

Picture 3A

Picture 3A


By using this flexibly structured and inclusive approach to school education and adult literacy, the programme endeavours to establish favourable education practices that encourage and promote linkages between school learning and the wider community. An integrated approach of this kind makes it imperative that the various stakeholders be involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and shaping of the family learning process. It is also important to encourage and transform “ordinary” events or facilities such as class visits, school open days and school compounds into effective learning opportunities. Furthermore, home visits are organized to help parents to create learning space at home as well as homemade teaching/learning materials. Each participating school receives a package of materials so that parents can make low-cost teaching/learning materials, either on their own, in the joint parent-child sessions or together with other families.

Programme Impact and Achievements

One of the challenges faced by the programme was how to enable parents (especially mothers) and children (especially girls) to play an active and informed role in community affairs, using the school as an entry point. As the programme progressed, diverse empowerment results emerged, some of which were initially unintended and unexpected. To be able to make broad generalisations and use these results for policy recommendations, it was necessary to obtain larger sample sizes and subject the results to greater qualitative analysis. Using control groups from neighbouring schools where no FABE activities had been implemented, the following results were recorded:

In addition to the improved literacy results, FABE has also produced broader social, economic and political effects. These include:

Challenges and Solutions

Lessons Learned

Future Plans: Sustainability

In the future, FABE would like to:

Monitoring and Evaluation

This continues to be a weak area overall. There is inadequate communication between school teacher supervisors and adult literacy educators. The two belong to different government ministries. An attempt has been made to agree on key indicators against which both parties can measure themselves. The attempt to get parents and teachers to undertake peer assessment has just begun. Data on learning attainments is not being systematically analysed and is still being presented in a raw form (e.g. as scores of “rights” and “wrongs” like those used in the school marking system). Broader informal and lifelong learning processes for children, parents, school teachers and adult educators are not being adequately established.



Patrick Kiirya
Literacy and Adult Basic Education(LABE)
Togore Crescent, Kamwokya / Kampala
P.O. Box 16176
Tel:+256 772 644197 / Fax:+256 414 534 864
E-mail: labe (at) / kiiryadelba (at)

Last update: 24 February 2010