Extra lessons spell success for students
November 28 2016

Once a week, students from Maunga Primary School in Livingstone are taught English literacy; the same as in the other two local schools where ALERT offers this service.  Unlike the other two schools, staff and volunteers have noticed that the reading level of students here is below what they have come to expect.  One of the main causes is high levels of absenteeism.  If a child misses a lesson, by the following week, they will struggle to remember what they learned previously.  In an effort to help these students reach a similar standard to other schools, last month English literacy classes were introduced in Maunga on a Monday as well.  Offering classes twice weekly is already having a positive effect on the children’s ability to remember new words. 

In another development in Livingstone, Patricia Mulyata, who joined Twabuka Primary School in grade five towards the end of last term, has been making very positive progress.  When she first joined the English literacy program, this student didn’t know any of the letters of the alphabet.  Learning alongside children who were much more advanced, Patricia was teased for making mistakes which obviously affected her confidence and ability to learn. To help her work towards achieving the same level of ability as her peers, Patricia is receiving ongoing one-to-one support and is now able to name most of the letters and knows the sounds they make.  A great achievement.      

Meanwhile in Victoria Falls, ALERT’s Reading Club continued this month with a new focus, not just on reading but also on spelling and grammar.  Staff at Chinotimba Primary School have taken the opportunity to utilise the Happy Readers book series introduced by ALERT in partnership with Coventry University.

Last week, students were introduced to a new book called ‘Larry the Lion’.  After reading the story a few times with the support of Lion Encounter volunteers, they were then given a reading comprehension quiz to ensure they had understood the book’s contents, some written work and spelling practice.

As reading ability and comprehension continue to improve, a renewed focus on spelling is being introduced to help students progress in this area too.  We are confident that weekly spelling revision and related activities will see a marked improvement in the learners’ abilities during the last term of the year.

Earlier in November, we were able to donate a large parcel of stationary including pencils, pens, books, paper, etc, to Chinotimba Primary School, the area’s largest government primary school.

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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