November 14, 2022 – Since 2019, WPDI has been offering Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) training sessions at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Uganda, a service that is much appreciated in an environment where many residents could not access or complete basic education due to conflict, displacement or, in the case of many women, cultural traditions. FAL provides learners with basic knowledge and skills in reading, writing and numeracy to establish sustainable literacy. The program is highly integrated, focusing on entrepreneurship and business management, language, gender issues, health, conflict management and transport and communication.

Since the introduction of FAL training by WPDI in 2019 at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda, up to 350 beneficiaries (59 men / 291 women) have been trained, which will encourage a cascading and multiplier effect on health, well-being and livelihoods thanks to increased literacy. The course has become one of our much appreciated services, notably among our partners such as OPM, UNHCR and the Kiryandongo district local government who value its potential for all the communities within and around the Settlement. Local Water Use Committee Chair, Grace Atoo, remarked that through enhanced effective communication among the refugee community members and arising from the WPDI FAL training program, there is reduced conflict at water points, markets, health facilities and public gathering places. Improved business management skills and application of numeracy knowledge among female groups has also been observed. The program has increased the participation of FAL trainees in other programs such as ICT, thanks to their improved literacy skills.

Currently, FAL training is ongoing at the Community Learning Center, with regular attendance of 35 trainees (6 men / 29 women) while 75 (10 men / 65 women) are enrolled in the female group projects.

At the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, the program is offered primarily to individuals or groups that are from illiterate backgrounds. The course was introduced in 2019 based on feedback from vulnerable women’s groups that had been recruited to be trained in entrepreneurship and business skills. They had indeed pointed out to us that many of them could not read and write, which limited their capacity not only to learn business skills but also to run a business in the first place. 

As a learning-based organization, WPDI had to respond. It was evident that teaching illiterate women how to read and write was critical to ensure the sustainability of our business program and, beyond, to strengthen the capacity of these women  – who were quickly joined by illiterate men as well – to forge a brighter future for themselves, their families and their communities. 


Nurah’s story

Nurah Mohammad Bona is a 37-year-old South Sudanese female living in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. Nurah fled to Uganda in 2016 following a conflict that led to the death of her husband, mother, brother and sister in South Sudan. Suicidal, she was advised to seek refuge in Uganda. Nurah made it to the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement with 12 children, including 6 orphans of her late brother and sister whom she currently takes care of. 

Upon reaching the heterogenous settlement, Nurah was faced with conflicting issues at the marketplace, water points and in the community due to the language barrier. She wanted to start a small business to sustain her family, but language was a real obstacle, since she only spoke Juba Arabic and the Zande language. She started with making liquid soap to sell, but lost a lot of money through scams.

It was at this time that Nurah got inspired to join the Functional Adult Literacy program offered by WPDI. Nurah is a high school Arab-pattern graduate and learning English from scratch was a challenge. With the help of her tutor, Geofrey, Nurah was able to grasp the essentials of English writing, reading right from alphabets to sentence construction and numeracy skills that helped her now to communicate and compute her business effectively.

Today, Nurah runs her own business, travels to Kampala to buy materials and communicates effectively in English with her clients. Her rewarding experience with the program further motivated her to join ICT and business and entrepreneurship programs at WPDI.

Nurah’s commitment and success have earned her a community mobilization role for Functional Adult Literacy, which she has used to inspire and encourage other women and men to enroll in WPDI programs. She believes that age is just a number and encourages adults to make use of the available learning opportunities. In five years’ time, Nurah hopes to perfect speaking and writing the English language, and improve her business and computer skills for enhanced employment opportunities.

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