Helping Children Learn to Read from the Ground Up

November 28, 2012

IMG_0288 In Zambia, Ministry of Education officials partnered with USAID through the Read To Succeed Project to increase parental and community involvement in school activities. Hands-on involvement by parents and community members, in partnership with school efforts, nurtures innovation, resulting in improved reading skills among students.

Read to Succeed’s work plan validation workshop held last August gathered Ministry of Education teams from provincial and district offices, head teachers, and representatives from Parent Teacher Associations. For the first time in the history of provincial and district planning meetings, parents were given an opportunity and a platform to define their role. Parents committed to volunteer in tasks ranging from monitoring a teacher’s time on task in school to following up on learner assessment results to ensuring students maintain regular attendance to gathering children in “insaka’’ (traditional shelters) to do homework during weekends and read together, further supporting literacy.

The workshop prioritized community engagement, ensuring that all activities for improving learner performance in reading engendered genuine grassroots support from the local community. Ministry officials welcomed parents’ insight at such a technical meeting. Parents engaged with the officials from the Ministry of Education to share ideas about workable approaches and solutions to common challenges. For their part, the parents were very happy to see that their contributions were acknowledged and integrated into a supplementary work plan for Read To Succeed. All stakeholders arrived at a shared understanding that building trust and common purpose is essential to improving learner achievements in schools.

Promoting Local Solutions to Key Education Problems

In Zambia, many teachers express the belief that reading can only be taught using professionally printed reading resources. Shandele Mwanamukuni, a retired District Education Board Secretary for Namwala District, now with USAID’s Read to Succeed Project implemented by Creative, is challenging this kind of thinking. Shandele has developed his own kit for teaching reading using readily available local materials. This locally developed reading kit was presented to over 200 Students at Mongu College of Education. The students were intrigued by the initiative and asked Read to Succeed to visit the college to formally share the approach. After the presentation, students at the college arranged to meet with the Read to Succeed staff privately to receive orientation on the locally-made reading kit and learn how to make their own reading resources as they prepare for their own teaching careers.

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