Why Adult Literacy Matters
Acquiring literacy in adulthood can make a huge difference to people's lives, which is why literacy is sometimes referred to as the 'invisible thread' which supports other development activities. For example many micro-credit organisations only offer services to literate clients, medicines tend to be effective only when taken correctly but to do this one usually has to read the instructions, likewise in agriculture when using fertiliser and ago-chemicals. Functional literacy also enables people to read and gain new ideas so that they and their communities can develop, it also greatly enhances people's self-esteem. It is due to these factors that Nijera Shikhi previously had such a significant impact on people's lives and well-being (see tab on effectiveness).
The current policy thrust of governments and donors is to invest in primary education, in the belief that this will eventually lead to the eradication of illiteracy. However, primary education tends only to be effective for the children of literate parents. As ever increasing numbers of children are enrolled in school the 'problem' of 'first generation learners' is emerging as a major barrier to effective primary schooling with children of illiterate parents not obtaining literacy at school.
Also see Chapt 5 of the UNESCO EFA monitoring report 2006