Unako Rationale

School Staf

Unako’s rationale and approach

Unako sees education as a social practice that is embedded in and influenced by various factors within social contexts such as cultural, political and socioeconomic disparities. These factors are woven together and animate societies. These factors determine the nature of access and quality in every school. Therefore, in Unako’s view it is important to build strong communities (as indispensable relations to learning) that will enrich our schools; while also recognising school development as an essential part of community development.
In terms of problematising, Unako has found that managerial and skills based approaches tend to blame principals and teachers (together with their trainers) while ignoring the social contexts within which learning takes place. They often envision schools as factories that work on mechanical processes such as those encapsulated with Paulo Freire’s banking model. Further, they abstract learning from the conditions of the learners assuming optimum conditions. 
Furthermore, due to the legacy of Apartheid, the majority of South Africans remain in conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. This often means that they, because of their dire circumstances, do not have the political will to ensure the enforcement of policy and, more broadly, the rights enshrined in the Constitution. Although the importance of education is understood, many communities do not have the social infrastructure to ensure that schools function properly to the benefit of the learners and community.

In light of this Unako has identified the following as the main challenges with regards to low literacy levels in schools: the language question, pedagogies and culture of learning, parental participation and school under-resourcing. 

Unako endeavours to use a multifaceted integrated approach that involves learners, schools, government, parents and the community this approach is guided by these 3 pillars:

Critical Literacy

We define literacy as the ability to access and to create knowledge. Access in the manner of reading, not only of books but also of the social context – social literacy. The creation of knowledge involves inscribing of oneself through creative action in writing and performance and thus contributing to social discourse. We see access to knowledge as contributing to the accumulation of agency and the creation of knowledge as the enactment of agency through telling one’s own story or offering one’s own interpretation.

Social Engagement

Central to the creation of knowledge is social engagement – the interrogation of dominant narratives and the social practises that inform them and offering new insights. This positions knowledge creation as an expository exercise which contributes to the formation of new narratives and new social practises.  

Transformative Action

We are committed to the actions that are informed by the insights we generate and practise them within the organisation and our community. We believe that in this manner, slow but consistent, meaningful social transformation can be achieved.

Unako’s vision, mission and objectives

With this approach in mind, Unako’s vision is:
A South African society of literate and critically conscious citizens, capable of meaningfully participating in- and contributing to- the development of a democratic society.
To work towards achieving this vision, Unako’s mission statement is as follows:
To make an effective and sustainable contribution to a culture of reading and youth development in marginalized communities by enhancing socio-critical literacy.
Unako will drive this mission by aiming to achieve the following six objectives:
1. To assist school learners in developing their literacy levels and provide them with the necessary skills to develop themselves in their communities
2. To assist schools to use innovative tools of learning that will improve the literacy levels of their learners and invigorate the learners’ learning potential
3. To assist government, communities and schools in using social literacy for transformation
4. To expand local discourses around learning and literacy by championing social literacy
5. To work in collaboration with various institutions and organisations, mainly focused on education, youth and community development
6. To have an efficient and effective organisation to achieve its objectives
The first three objectives seek to assist the beneficiaries of Unako in raising the social literacy levels: learners, schools and government. The fourth objective seeks to create a culture of reading in townships as a conducive environment for assisting the beneficiaries. And the fifth objective seeks to partner with likeminded organisations for optimal results.
The last objective seeks to further develop Unako as an organisation so it can efficiently support the achievement of the other five objectives.