News Adult Literacy for Conservation

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), literacy is the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society

Source Partners For Conservation
Release date 06/05/2016
Contributor Emmanuel BUGINGO
Geographical coverage Volcanoes National Park,
Keywords conservation

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), literacy is the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. Generally, “literacy” also encompasses “ numeracy”, the ability to make simple arithmetic calculations. By adult literacy here, we mean the ability of a population aged 15 and above to do simple arithmetic, to read and to have basic writing skills. Partners For Conservation is working to establish this latter definition among a population of poor, vulnerable and marginalized people living in the vicinity of the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda in northwest Rwanda. At Partners For Conservation, we believe that a high rate of illiteracy is a threat to conservation, as without any knowledge these people have no means to invest in their survival other than to rely on park natural resources. Based to EICV 4 (Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey/Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des Ménages), the level of literacy nationwide is higher among the population aged 15 to 24 than among the whole population aged above 15.

In 2013–14, about 86% of the population aged between 15 and 24 and 72% of the population aged 15 years and above reported knowing how to read and write. This reflects the higher levels of access to education among the population aged 15 to 24. This implies that 14% of the population aged 15 to 24 are illiterate while 28% of the population aged 15 and above are illiterate nationwide. (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), EICV4 - Education thematic Report, March 2016.) EICV suggests that this is due to the fact that the population in the age group of 15 and above is more likely to contain persons who have never been to school compared to those aged 15 to 24. EICV suggests that this is due to the fact that persons aged 15 to 24 are more likely to have been to school compared with those over 24 years of age. According to the same source, literacy levels are highest in urban settings, at 88% for persons aged 15 and above and 93% for persons aged 15 to 24. Therefore, the highest level of illiteracy is found in rural areas. In the Musanze district, the literacy levels for the population aged between15 to 24 were 83.9% during EICV 3 (2010/2011) and increased to 87.2% during EICV 4 (2013/2014).

Meanwhile, the literacy levels for the population aged 15 and above increased 3.9% from 68.5% during EICV 3 to 87.2% during EICV 4. (NISR, EICV4 - Education thematic Report, March 2016). This implies that the levels of illiterate population aged 15 to 24 decreased from 16.1% (in 2010/2011) to 12.8 %(in 2013/2014) nationwide whereas the levels of illiterate population aged 15 and above decreased from 31.5% (in 2010/2011) to 12.8% (in 2013/2014). This is mainly due to the introduction of education for all and an emphasis on adult literacy trainings. According to the 2012-2021 Strategy Plan for the Volcanoes National Park, despite its exceptional biodiversity values, the park is subject to a variety of serious and growing anthropogenic pressures, largely related to it being situated in one of the most densely populated parts of Rwanda.

In the same document, we learn that with a human population density of more than 700 people per km2, the community areas adjacent to Volcanoes National Park (VNP) have one of the highest rural population densities in Africa. The population is also heavily skewed towards younger age groups, implying that the population density in areas adjacent to VNP is likely to significantly increase in coming years. Data presented in the VNP management plan of 2005‐2009 indicated that youth between the ages of 0‐24 years constituted almost 62.2% of the population in the Buhoma District and 60.6% in the Mutobo District. In Kinigi District, youth below 30 years of age represented 69.8% while in Mutura, youth between 0‐18 years represented 56% of the population.

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During the last decentralization, Buhoma and Mutura district formed the current district of Nyabihu, in the Western Province while Mutobo and Kinigi plus what was the Ruhengeri town formed the current district of Musanze. The Community Based Natural Resources Management (2006) states that there is a significant presence of Historically Marginalised People around the park who are identified in the poorest category, with some with small land or not. They are also marginalized within the communities where they live, as they rely on the park for food and income by harvesting and hunting. They suffer extreme poverty and have the least number of livestock (1.04% compared with 2.73% owned by other communities). The dependency on park resources for their livelihood is higher (28.8% get fuel from the park while only 0.4% do so from other communities; 52% harvest forest products compared with 18% in other communities). This group of marginalized people in Rwanda includes the population that was living in the forest before the creation of the national parks in Rwanda: poor, vulnerable, disabled people and women. It is within this community that the Office Rwandais du Toursime et des Parcs Nationaux observed the highest level of illiteracy. When Jean Pierre NIYONZIMA and Jean de la Paix RUDATINYA, managers of two training centres (Muhingo and Muguli) located in the Shingiro sector of the Musanze district in the Northern Province of Rwanda, came to knock at our door, we believed strongly in their initiative and committed do doing our best to help. With limited funds, we managed to provide teaching materials and equipment to both of them so that they now have in total 58 trainees, including 39 women and 19 men, all over the age of 15, including some more elderly persons. During our field visits, our volunteer noticed a large number of persons who would benefit from adult literacy. Our impact is unfortunately limited by scarce funds. They have every desire to continue this work, but lack the necessary materials to increase the number of trainees. Our intention is to help these phenomenal young men to educate as many as possible for without their support, the area’s socio-economic development and the inviolability of the park remain at risk. The infrastructure in these locales is limited.

There currently is no proper place for training; this keeps them moving within the village to locate a free place to use. Nonetheless, our priority is to increase trainings so that we can at least match the demand of candidates. Due to lack of funds to hire qualified teachers, we envisage setting up a team of volunteers that can provide consistent teaching support. In this case, teaching materials will remain the only challenge. The curricula followed by teachers is divided into three phases: (1) adult literacy (reading, writing, numeracy and composition), (2) hygiene and social literacy (hygiene and social behaviors) and (3) project management literacy. With evaluation tests, they are able to promote those performing to the next level. Today, all trainees are following the 1st phase of the curriculum. In order to help our nation to achieve its goal for the 2020 vision, particularly in terms of increasing the level of human resources, it is imperative that we accept an inclusive approach that will consider this unique population that has been lost between conservation and development. We believe that once these trainings have been completed, they will open doors to new opportunities such as technical and vocational trainings that are essential in addressing the major challenges faced by our country in human resource development and skills that match the labor market. This education will serve as the base for a continuing development in science, technology and innovation.

Further, we believe that this community will use the knowledge acquired to invest in development and other off farming activities which; have been a continuous threat to the park and to its rich biodiversity. This education will disrupt activities that have been affecting the park such as poaching, encroaching park boundaries in search of land, and low income from farming. The experience of these two gentlemen who took the frontline to help their fellow people out of illiteracy is seen by Partners For Conservation as an indication of how once they are helped, members of this community can help each other.

The gift and value of education will be self-perpetuating among this community, therefore will be fewer and fewer barriers to developing members of the community, to improving our country’s work force and to reducing harm to the VNP and threatened biodiversity living within the park. For further inquiry about saving threatened species by helping threatened species, or to join us in this endeavor, don’t hesitate to contact us on info@notrebio.org or visit our website www.notrebio.org

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