Working knee to knee with schools in Kenya

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OXFORD KENYA--04Teachers need a range of culturally relevant, locally developed tools if they are to improve literacy in their learners.

This statement by Professor Helen Inyega from the University of Nairobi in Kenya summed up four presentations which she delivered at the combined 9th Pan African Reading for All and the 10th Reading Association of South Africa (RASA) Conference on Wednesday, 2nd of September.

In Kenya, only 16% of grade 3 learners could pass grade 2 tests. Equally concerning is that 20% of children in grade 7 could also not pass the grade 2 literacy tests.

Prof Inyega’s presentation illustrated the work of four programmes taking place to improve literacy skills in Kenya.

Assessments carried out by young local volunteers and the results of all four programmes showed that literacy excellence is dependent on early intervention. The link between learner achievement and teacher knowledge is undeniable.

“There are some vital skills that our teachers need,” she said. “They need to be equipped to assess the quality of materials that are available and they need to make their own teaching materials that are unambiguous.”

She reported on a programme which trained 298 teachers, including some from schools in the slum areas. The result was a measurable positive impact on 17 880 children, especially among those who were struggling readers.

Training also emerged as a key area in the work of Dr Ben Piper, head of the USAID’s Primary Mathematics and Reading Initiative. He works with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s literacy programme which was implemented this year and will run until 2018. Children in class 1 and 2 in all public and 1000 slum schools – over 5 million children – will be supported. The programme includes training for trainers, for TAC tutors and for teachers and head teachers.

An interesting aspect of the programme is the use of technology to ensure implementation. Uploads of reports are linked to the reimbursements of the trainers, and GPS ensures that the trainers actually attend all the schools to which they are assigned.

The Kenyan innovations extend to school readiness programmes as well. Dr Evangeline Nderu heads the Tayari Early Childhood Development Programme which aims to improve school readiness for 75, 000 pupils in 1500 early childhood centres. In this pilot programme only four of Kenya’s 47 districts are covered.

“Literacy for all is our top priority,” Prof Inyega said. “It is central and indispensable to life-long, life-wide and life-deep learning. Literacy is the foundation of sustainable development and good governance and we are determined to provide lasting solutions to improve the futures of all of our children.”

In line with its commitment to education across Africa, in September 2015 Oxford University Press proudly sponsored the Pan African Reading for All and Reading Association of South Africa Literacy Conference. This article is part of a collection of insights from conference and reflections from delegates. To find out more about the event, go to www.rasa2015.co.za 

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