Book Club comes to Gweru
March 11 2016

In Gweru, Book Club (our English Literacy project) is initially being offered at two schools, Mkoba 4 and Takunda Primary, and at the Drop-inCentre for street children.

The first step of introducing Book Club has been undertaken with the implementation of standardized reading assessments to determine current participants’ reading ages.  This is done so that we can place each pupil into an appropriate reading age group to make it easier for us to target the specific needs of the pupils, and to help us assess their progress over time as the tests are repeated periodically. 

60 tested students, aged 10 to 14 years (average 11.5), at Takunda Primary are starting the literacy course with reading ages of between 5 to 13 years (average 7.5).  38 students at Mkoba 4 Primary, of the same age range and average age, also start with reading ages between 5 to 13 years (average 7.3).  13 street children attending the Drop-in Centre, with an age range of 16 to 19 years, start with reading ages of between under 5 years up to 14 years (average 8.5).

Whilst we had originally intended to introduce Book Club for Grade 6s at Mkoba 4 Primary School only initially, the course has gained the attention of the teacher of the School’s special needs class that we also assist through our school development project.  As such, we have decided to extend Book Club to incorporate the 24 students with learning disabilities in this class.  The children have been placed in the special needs class following Ministry of Education assessment, and further sub-divided into two ability groups within the class.  We have now undertaken standard reading assessments to split the class into three groups more appropriate to the specific needs of these children, and so that we are better able to assess their progress.

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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