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ChildFund Tackles Reading Crisis' with Instructional Materials, Enhanced Teacher Training :: Uganda Radionetwork
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ChildFund Tackles Reading Crisis' with Instructional Materials, Enhanced Teacher Training

Moses Otai, the Country Director at ChildFund, pointed out that in response to this situation, ChildFund has initiated a collaboration with Longhorn Publishers to assist over 90,000 learners in targeted schools that are particularly struggling with early-grade reading.
19 Jun 2024 08:42
Grade-specific textbooks, part of ChildFund's initiative to improve early grade reading in Uganda
A program that aims at enhancing early-grade reading has been unveiled by ChildFund in a move to combat what is perceived as a reading crisis majorly in public schools.

Uganda is battling a significant challenge of school children who struggle with reading. For instance, in a 2021 Uwezo survey, 55 per cent of primary three learners and 35 per cent of primary five learners were unable to read, a problem which has been traced to a scarcity of reading materials and related resources.

Moses Otai, the Country Director at ChildFund, pointed out that in response to this situation, ChildFund has initiated a collaboration with Longhorn Publishers to assist over 90,000 learners in targeted schools that are particularly struggling with early-grade reading.

“Each school will receive at least four teacher guides (one for each class from primary one to four) and 20 learners’ books for English,” said Otai.

Otai made these remarks during the launch of the project, which commenced with the distribution of textbooks to beneficiary schools and emphasized that the books being distributed have already received approval from the Ministry of Education and Sports.

In the first year of the project, the collaboration between Longhorn and ChildFund is budgeted at 585 million Shillings and aims to deliver approximately 43,504 books.

Charles Luwaga, the program director, further emphasized that the distributed books will encompass English pupil books, early-grade reading teacher’s guides, and supplementary materials such as readers and other resources.

'We already possess data from the respective districts identifying schools in dire need of textbooks. These schools will be our initial focus. Subsequently, we plan to expand to additional schools. We have also developed content in local languages, which will be implemented in the coming years,” he said.

The books will be allocated to schools with stringent monitoring to ensure they are actively utilized, rather than being stored on shelves and gathering dust, as has been observed in some cases.

Michael Imailuk, the Manager of Masindi Child Development Federation, said the project will receive support from implementing partners who are already engaged in other projects in different districts to ensure compliance.

“The program is structured to ensure active use of these materials. Schools receiving benefits will undergo monitoring. Additionally, there's a component encouraging parents, where feasible, to borrow books from schools to support reading at home and within the community,” said Imailuk.

Lukiya Kibona, an Early Learning Specialist at ChildFund, said that providing books alone wouldn’t be enough to make a lasting impact. She added that to support this initiative the programme has another critical component of supporting teachers in effective early-grade reading instruction.

"Away from instructional materials, many teachers, especially in public schools, lack proficiency or interest in teaching reading. They require training and capacity building on effective reading instruction for students," Kibona said.

Kibona, explains that the teachers too will be engaged through district inspectors of schools and centres coordinating tutors in various comprehension strategies and reading techniques specifically designed for young learners. She believes that empowering teachers is crucial and will play a key role in driving the success of the project.

Chege Ngugi, the Africa Regional Director at ChildFund International, highlighted that the program of distributing textbooks and related reading materials has already been successfully tested in Kenya, yielding positive results. Bringing this initiative to Uganda is seen as a step in the right direction.

"The idea is to support our schools in addressing the reading crisis, which has a significant impact on learners and the country as a whole. We believe that if implemented effectively, it will make a substantial difference and complement the government's efforts in this area," said Ngugi.

According to a recent World Bank report, all children must achieve reading proficiency by the age of 10. The report underscores that reading serves as a fundamental gateway to learning as children advance through their educational journey. Conversely, a child's inability to read effectively can effectively close off this gateway to further learning opportunities.

“Beyond this, when children cannot read, it’s usually a clear indication that school systems aren’t well enough organized to help them learn in other areas such as math, science, and the humanities. And although it is possible to learn later in life with enough effort, children who don’t read by age 10—or at the latest, by the end of primary school—usually fail to master reading later in their schooling career,” the report reads in part.

Meanwhile, the government also recognized the issue and has since initiated various programs focused on early-grade reading, many of which receive support from different development partners. One notable program is the USAID-funded Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity.