LEF and the Adult Literacy for Workers course

LEF and the Adult Literacy for Workers course

Irfan Hoat is Manager of the Programme Development Unit for IFWEA affiliate the Labour Education Foundation (LEF) in Pakistan. He explains why they are developing the Adult Literacy for Workers, and how it works:


According to the economic survey of Pakistan 2019, the literacy rate in Pakistan is 55.3%. According to estimates, out of a 70 million person labour force, only 900 000 labourers have social security cards, while 260 000 are registered in the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution. It has been studied that 80% of the formal labour force is not getting the correct wage as per the minimum wage notification. It is a challenge to address these issues, as the labour force is not organised; only 3% of labourers are members of a trade union in Pakistan. Most labourers are illiterate, and battle to claim their rights within the legal framework. There is a need to educate the labour force and organise them into trade unions.

What is the aim of the Adult Literacy for Workers course?

This online course is for development practitioners who work for the rights of people living in poverty at the grassroots level. They will learn about participatory approaches and how to understand the power dynamics within society and address the root causes of poverty. Most workers in Pakistan do not have reading and writing skills and find it difficult to manage their daily wage records. It has been observed, for example, that accountants in the brick kiln sector are involved in embezzlement, but the brick kiln worker has no other option than to trust their records. Besides that, they do not know their legal rights.

How does literacy relate to supporting workers?

LEF is rights-based organisation and we believe that poverty is caused by the violation of the rights of an individual; we also believe that rights can be claimed through struggle. The powerless segment of society has to develop the power within. Education is a sustainable way to develop the power within, therefore we focus on adult literacy.

How have you put the course together – how does it work?

This course is designed for development practitioners/adult literacy facilitators who are directly in contact with communities/workers. The objective of the course is to train the development practitioners so that they can start the adult literacy programme for workers.

The course has five topics.

  • Understanding the theory and philosophy of Paulo Freire and Robert Robert Chambers.
  • Facilitation skills for developing the participatory primer.
  • Development of the participatory primer.
  • Structuring reading and writing and numeracy.
  • Online literacy: Learner’s freedom from place and time.

In the first topic, the course participants will get conceptual clarity on power dynamics class differences and exploitation of labour. They will also learn how exploitation has deep roots which start from the household and move to the international level. They will also learn about the change process from individual to the international level.

In the second topic, the participants will learn facilitation skills. The facilitator must have democratic values and should be passionate about positive change within society; they must also have solidarity with workers/people living in poverty.

In the third topic, the participants will learn the participatory tools and techniques through with they will develop the primer.

In the fourth topic, the participants will learn about how we can educate in another language with people who do not know reading and writing skills in any language. So it will be about the basic principles of learning in any language

The last topic is about using online tools like WhatsApp and how they can be used for distance learning.

What influences/theories do you use?

It has been observed that having only reading and writing skills doesn’t necessarily empower people living in poverty, but critical thinking and questioning the existing paradigm is the main ability which any literacy methodology should encourage. This participatory adult literacy module is developed by amalgamating the ideology of Paulo Freire and the methodology of Robert Chambers.

Paulo Freire said that “when we read a word we are reading the world”, so it is very important which word we use when we are educating – whether the word is promoting the status quo or will bring positive change to the lives of workers.

In most adult literacy modules, the primers come from the state/powerful institutions/outside through which they promote and strengthen existing power structures, non-democratic values, unjust economic systems and the patriarchy, so in these primers, the reality of the labour class is missing. This participatory adult literacy module is based on the realities of the labour class, to facilitate the change process.

Watch this video to see adult literacy in action:


How has IFWEA helped with the process?

IFWEA gives you the space to develop innovative ideas for workers’ education. IFWEA have provided the training to develop an online course. The IFWEA trainer facilitated a lot at every step in developing this course.

Is there a limit on how many can do the course at one time, and how long is the course?

It will be a five-week course. We will pilot the course with five to six participants; however, a maximum of 20 participants enrolment is ideal.

What language will the course be run in?

The course will be in English.

Is there an exam or a test at the end?

At the end of the course, an evaluation will be conducted.