An Update from our Reading Club in Victoria Falls
June 30 2016

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, staff and volunteers travelled to Chinotimba Primary School in Victoria Falls to run another lesson of Reading Club for the students.  We were informed by the school prior to our arrival that sport activities would also be taking place that afternoon, causing children to leave literacy class from time to time.  As such, the lesson was planned with flexibility in mind, and to keep disruptions to a minimum as students moved around.  

Following the TESSA syllabus, the lesson focussed on a written article about an event - this lesson in particular was based around Lent.  Students were split into groups with two volunteers asked to read an article explaining about Lent and why it takes place.  They took turns to read small paragraphs out loud, while the others in the group followed the text.  Once the article was completed, each paragraph was re-read individually and the students asked questions to ensure they understood the information given.  As this continued, some groups split into smaller groups with individual volunteers to accommodate the various reading levels and allow students who had been taking part in the sports activities to catch up.

The final exercise of the lesson was to have the children spell 10 words from the article.  The spelling test started with easier words, progressing through to more difficult ones that required learners to sound out the words, as well as use their memory.  On completion, students were asked to swap papers for grading, which showed that the average score of the class was seven correct words; a large improvement to previous tests.  The lesson ended with correction to their work and a few students taking the initiative to rewrite the words several times in order to remember the correct spelling.

The Reading Club students are showing vast improvements as the lessons continue, with some of the learners originally placed in lower groups beginning to progress into higher ones.  All hesitation for fear of answering incorrectly has disappeared and a solid comradery has been formed within the class, as they support one another to complete tasks.  With end of term fast approaching next month, assessments carried out in coming weeks will hopefully support the developments made in the class. 

About Book Club

English is the official language of both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and without good proficiency in English reading and writing, students will likely be excluded from many aspects of active citizenship, including employment opportunities.   English proficiency also helps students to better understand all their school subjects, and to be able to tackle exams, which are given in English.  In partnership with Coventry University, ALERT has established English literacy programs at weekly Book Clubs to improve children’s English literacy levels and foster a love of reading.  Pupils attending book clubs are tested to establish their current reading age, and then tailored, locally appropriate, assistance is provided to improve literacy using educational materials from AXIS Education, TESSA and Happy Readers.  A library system provides pupils access to a wide-range of reading level appropriate books.

About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

English literacy courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies / entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.

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