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In 1981, Nicaragua was awarded a UNESCO prize in recognition of the success of the 1980 National Literacy Crusade (CNA) through which, it was claimed, three quarters of the country’s illiterate had been taught to read and write. This article reports the follow-up of several women graduates of the CNA. It finds that, a decade later, a significant proportion of them are no longer able to read or write; and that of those who can, many had previously attended formal schooling as children for several years. An assessment of national census and survey figures suggests that about 9 per cent of the population became literate solely as a consequence of Nicaragua’s ambitious adult-education interventions in the 1980s. Other benefits, such as the impact on child health and survival, have yet to be quantified.





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