Original Research

Cultural and social uses of orality and functional literacy: A narrative approach

Lineo R. Johnson
Reading & Writing | Vol 7, No 1 | a119 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v7i1.119 | © 2016 Lineo R. Johnson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2015 | Published: 26 October 2016

About the author(s)

Lineo R. Johnson, Department of Adult Education and Youth Development, University of South Africa,, South Africa


Lesotho’s educational system and development are largely influenced by missionaries and colonisers who taught the three ‘Rs’ (reading, writing and numeracy skills) to the Basotho. Most of those enlightened Basotho were to carry on the duties of either educating others or as missionary workers. Some became clerks, interpreters, police officers, nurses and Sunday school teachers. This article is an account of a functionally literate Mosotho male adult learner who was herding livestock and taught himself reading and writing skills. In his narrative, Hlalefang (not his real name) compares literacy to money and a watch or a clock. He further expresses how people like him have managed to muster some basic and restructure the cognitive and oral history and archival memories, through intuitiveness. The story is based on the work of Paulo Freire where culture influences the discourse of literacy. A qualitative narrative story-telling approach was used to relate Hlalefang’s lived-experiences as he navigated his ways and challenges using orality acquired through various life encounters. This inspirational cultural narrative demonstrates that culture and social uses are imperatives in functional literacy. The article challenges those in adult education, literacy, development practitioners and policy-makers to consider some aspects of culture and to be innovative in their approaches to multi-literacies.


Cultural; social uses; functional literacy; livestock; narrative approach


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