Looking back on the last term at Book Club
December 24 2015

Livingstone’s schools are closing for Christmas holidays, however an adapted version of our usual Book Clubs are still held three times a week during the holidays in Twabuka and Manunga Primary, as well as Natebe Community School. 

With the end of the school year, it’s time to look back at what was achieved during the last months.

One of many successful stories

In July Mutinta stood out of the group at Book Club for all the wrong reasons.  Despite being in grade 7 she was hardly able to read, causing problems for her across her school life.  The correct spelling of words besides her name was very hard for her. It seemed letters were more like pretty signs, but without any meaning.  When working with plastic letters Mutinta was never sure of which way around they must be placed.  However, during this last term Mutinta turned out to be a very ambitious and abiding student.  

After the grade 7s had finished their exams in October, most of them - not having any lessons at school - stayed at home to await their results.  Not so Mutinta, who kept coming to Book Club to practise her reading skills and interact with the English speaking volunteers.  Her reading improved greatly.  She is now able to read many words, as well as understand their meaning.  She is able to recall what she learned during the sounds and phonics sessions at the beginning of every Book Club lesson, and use that learning to form words with plastic letters, placing them all the correct way around. 

At the beginning of the term Mutinta was observed to borrow the biggest and most colourful books from the library, just to look at, whereas now she is more and more looking for books that she is actually able to read and understand.

Mutinta was also one of the children that took part in our Numeracy trial programme in advance of rolling out a full course in 2016.  Just like literacy, Mutinta’s understanding of numbers was poor for a child in grade 7.  At first she would often look out of the window, or at the pictures in her library book, whilst our team would explain maths exercises and concepts. What first looked like a loss of interest was probably a coping strategy to avoid, what for her were tiring, lessons.  With some one-on-one help she turned out to be as keen to learn mathematics as she was reading.  Mutinta soon caught up to the other children in the group in terms of ability.

 

Adding up numbers using sticks and seeds to help visualise the numbers

Learning steps like these might appear small and unimportant for people with higher education levels.  But next to learning how to add up numbers, and read easy words, Mutinta also learned that she is able to help herself, and that she can achieve something if she focusses and keeps trying.  The Book Club team hopes to Mutinta will join us again next year on our literacy, basic life skills and numeracy clubs to continue her learning.  The self-confidence and positive attitude she built by completing maths exercises and reading a whole book by herself shall help her to keep learning at her pace and eventually use her full potential.

Graduation

In Zambia, primary school ends after grade 7, which is completed with an exam in most subjects.  The exams are held in English which for many children, especially in rural areas where English is hardly spoken outside schools, is a big obstacle.  In Book Clubs delivered by international volunteers and interns, the children are surrounded by written and spoken English. Since the volunteers and interns do not understand the local languages the children are more likely to try to communicate with them using English, which helps a lot to improve both their receptive and productive language skills.

We are proud to announce that 16 out of 19 students of Twabuka Primary School that wrote their Grade 7 exams in October have passed, and are now certified to carry on their education in grades 8 and 9.  This is the second year in a row where the passing rates at Twabuka Primary School are much higher than in previous years.  All but one of this year’s graduates have been attending Twabuka Book Club for three years, which is a wonderful proof of the effectiveness of the programme in combination with the lessons the local teachers are delivering.

We are looking forward to another successful Book Club year in 2016 and are excited to find some impatient grade 4s already attending Holiday Book Club and telling us that they soon will be in grade 5 and old enough to join Book Club every week.

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.

Join us at the AEC

There are a number of ways you can join our AEC projects to assist in the delivery of the AECs various programmes.  Click on the following links for further information:

-          Those with some teaching experience can join our Teaching in Africa internship

-          Researchers interested in assisting us assess AEC programmes can join our Research in the Community Internship

-          If your interest is in teaching about conservation, you can also join the programme as a Conservation Education Intern

-          Even if you have no teaching experience, there is still much you can do to help deliver our various courses as part of our volunteer programmes

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If you would like to support the activities of our AEC operations please click here.

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