Book Club Grade Five Intervention Programme
June 20 2016

The Zambian schools re-opened after the holidays on the 9th of May, allowing for the resumption of Book Club, our English literacy course. 

Working with Coventry University, three literacy programmes are being evaluated across three rural schools, with a fourth school acting as a control group.  Across the three schools, grade five pupils have been randomly placed into three different groups.  Each group receives teaching using one of the three methods; phonics based learning, a combination of phonics and a reading programme developed specifically for children in this region, and a reading programme that is applicable for students anywhere.  The intention is to evaluate each intervention in order to improve on our project delivery.

Within each group, and among all grade fives, there were huge variations in reading ability at the start of the programme - from not being able to read a single word, to children reading at a higher reading age than their actual age.  Every student was evaluated at the start of the programme, and are being regularly assessed during the process to establish the success of each teaching method, and the progress of each student. 

Mundia is one student whose reading age was lower than expected for her age.  She is old enough to be in grade seven, but because exams are in English she has been unable to progress and remains in grade five.  Since the programme started, Mundia has made huge progress, and attended holiday club during the school break to continue her learning.  After only a few weeks Mundia is able to read well, and is often seen helping her friends when they struggle with reading a word correctly.

Mundia, pictured centre, practices her reading skills      

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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