LUSAKA – Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have taken place annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. To commemorate ILD 2020, Komboni Radio interviewed Chargé d’Affaires David Young from the U.S. Embassy. Chargé Young used the interview to highlight the partnership between the Embassy’s USAID Let’s Read project and the Ministry of General Education (MOGE).
The U.S. government’s flagship education project in Zambia, USAID Let’s Read is a five-year partnership with the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) to improve reading outcomes for approximately 1.4 million pre-primary to Grade 3 children from 4,250 public and community schools in five provinces. The project started in January 2019 and will end in January 2024 and represents a U.S. government investment of approximately K960 million ($49 million).
Aligned with the ILD 2020 theme “Literacy Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond,” Chargé Young noted USAID Let’s Read’s work with the MOGE’s Primary Literacy Program and the recent launch of the radio-based “Tips for Teachers” and “Folktales for Students.” These radio-based programs continue instructional and professional support for teachers and learners during the pandemic. The programs are provided through interactive radio instruction, an approach that broadcasts pre-recorded, interactive lessons to students, teachers, and parents. Developed in partnership with the MoGE, the programs offer an innovative distance-learning solution for students and teachers from preschool through Grade 3 in the five USAID Let’s Read target provinces—Eastern, Muchinga, North-Western, Southern, and Western.
Chargé Young also advocated for increased parental and caregiver involvement in advancing childhood literacy. “There is a need for greater parental involvement in the education of their children, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic period. It is critically important that parents support the learning of their children by helping them with reading and follow up activities after they hear the folktales that are broadcast,” said Chargé d’Affaires Young. “Reading with your child helps develop a stronger bond between you and offers a greater sense of well-being.”
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, USAID Let’s Read, in collaboration with the MoGE, provided face-to-face training to district reading teams, who were responsible for training teachers and school administrators. To date, over 18,000 head teachers and Grade 1-3 literacy teachers from 4,600 GRZ and community schools in over 60 districts have been trained in literacy instructional methodology.
USAID Let’s Read will also provide more than five million books and other learning materials in the seven official languages stipulated by the MoGE to over 4,600 public and community schools. In addition to the ongoing COVID-19 related support offered through USAID Let’s Read, the U.S. government has provided more than K332 million ($17 million) to support COVID-19 mitigation activities in Zambia across the health, education, and economic development sectors.