The purpose of the conference was to create a conducive environment for both the unschooled and educated people of all kinds of life to freely interact and share ideas, experiences, skills and knowledge on issues that affect their livelihoods and in so doing get equipped with literacy and numeracy skills including digital literacy to appropriately respond to challenges of the current global economy in which learning should proceed as a lifelong process.
This year’s conference received moral and material supported from URLCODA’s partners namely: St. Joseph’s College Ombaci, St. Joseph’s College Ombaci Old Boys’ Association (SJOCOBA), AIDS Information Centre (AIC), Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), Nile University College of Uganda Martyrs’ University (UMU), Uganda Christian University (UCU), National Community of Women Living with AIDS (NACWOLA), Ayivu Health Sub-district, Adult Literacy and Basic Education Centre (ALBEC) and Uganda Literacy and Adult Learners’ Association (ULALA).
The conference accommodated people of diverse age, gender, socio-economic, cultural, education and geographical backgrounds to enhance learning in non-formal setting. As result, a very high degree of informality was maintained in its organization. It was multilingual, multicultural and intergenerational in nature. Key speakers at the conference laid special emphasis on how the emerging ICT tools can be adapted and innovatively used to respond to some of the critical challenges facing rural people.
Several activities including health/medical camp, plenary sessions, parallel sessions for groups discussions on the different challenges facing the people, ICT skills training, football matches for women, a variety of traditional/cultural dances and music, storytelling by fire place at night, and sharing of learners’ everyday experiences with literacy and numeracy were participatorily undertaken in the course of the three days of the conference.
The conference was beneficial in that it: (i) enabled people to discuss critical issues such as: land fragmentation, food insecurity and malnutrition, lack of information on and access to markets, bad aspects of our cultural practices, problems of population pressure, illiteracy and corruption that is now eating our society; (ii) created ready market for crafts and local products made by learners; (iii) enabled people to receive HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, cervical cancer screening, HIV care kits and family planning services; (iv) helped participants receive training on ICTs and appreciate their role in solving some of their everyday problems; (v) formed a platform for networking on educational and learning issues; (vi) and united generations as it brought together people living with HIV, the old, the young, the middle aged, the educated, primary, secondary and University students, the unschooled, women, men, religious leaders, cultural leaders, political leaders and government official for a period of four days in a non-formal learning and educational environment.
Despite the above positive effects of the conference, the volunteer organizers experienced a number of challenges some of which included: limited time for mobilization and carrying out the activities, linguistic diversity that characterized the participants hence lack time for all the translations, lack of financial and material resources to support the activities and negative attitudes people have towards the concept of voluntarism.
Among other things, participants unanimously resolved as follows: (i) The rotational conferences that offer learning opportunities for people of all ages, should with effect from 2014, continue as a biannual event to give time for adequate preparation, (ii) Volunteers should lobby for government and other CSOs to consider supporting efforts to set up ICT centres for rural people; and (iii) What Makerere’s College of Education Centre for Lifelong Learning was doing to provide non-formal, adult, continuing and lifelong learning opportunities to all in Uganda was the right thing in present ICT driven era and should be emulated and supported