Understanding the Concept of Functional Literacy by Selected Residents of Lusaka District of Zambia

  • Ambweni Silavwe The University of Zambia
  • Theresa Mwawa The University of Zambia
  • Sitwe Benson Mkandawire The University of Zambia
Keywords: functional literacy, reading and writing, literacy, illiteracy, functional illiteracy.


This study sought to establish the conceptual understanding of functional literacy by selected residents of Lusaka and how they thought it was applied in the society. The study was guided by four research questions (a) what was the understanding of functional literacy by residents of Lusaka? (b) what role did functional literacy play in a society and how did it improve people’s lives? (c) how was functional literacy applied according to residents of Lusaka? and (d) what were the challenges faced by functionally illiterate people according to respondents? This was a qualitative mode of inquiry under post positivism research paradigm. The specific research design used was phenomenological with the constructivist theory. Data was collected through face to face interviews with residents of Lusaka that were randomly selected. Data was analyzed thematically by grouping related information under certain themes. The study revealed that functional literacy is the application of reading and writing skills in people’s daily lives such as reading cell phone messages, social media chats, receipts, writing plans, notes, budgets, books, messages on social media and others. Other respondents indicated that it was the ability to translate theory or skills into practice. It was further noted that, functional literacy helped people to be self-sustaining, in return, contributing to social, political and economic development of the country. It was further reported that people that were functionally illiterate had limited access to written information and were prone to certain risks such as eating expired foods. The study recommended that the government and non-governmental organisations should sensitise the people of Lusaka on the concept of functional literacy.