The Psycho-Social reality of literacy/Illiteracy for Women at Mboza : a rural community
The paper describes a group of women literacy learners' conceptualizations about their lives in a rural community and their perceptions of the worth of literacy in this context. Central to their reflections about their lives, and their decision to attend literacy classes, was their desire for independence and control in a context where they feel resourceless; and where literacy, as an aspect of formal education,
holds the latent promise of improved life chances.
The research which informs the paper was recently undertaken in a remote rural area known as Mboza in north-eastern Natal/KwaZulu, and is intended to supplement an ongoing, more extensive, research and development initiative. Research undertaken in this community is directed through a community-based development programme, known as The Mboza Village Project, which evolved out of a partnership between the
community and researchers; and the aim of both research and development activities is to address the ever-deepening crisis of poverty and powerlessness in rural areas such at Mboza.1 Any research undertaken
in the community should therefore, in principle, have direct bearing on development activities where the focus remains on the development of human potential, as opposed to the usual top-down approach to I factfinding'
research which characterizes so many rural development strategies.
This study focussed specifically on the social meaning of literacy/ illiteracy for rural women, as revealed through the personal knowledge of a group of literacy learners at Mboza. The methodological framework which informed the process of data gathering and analysis, as well as the reconstruction of the participants' viewpoints here, is outlined elsewhere.3 Suffice it to point out that it followed a rationalist as opposed to an empiricist methodology, because the emphasis was on the meaning of the experiences and beliefs of the literacy learners, not on
a quantification of these.