Mobile Library Comes to Maunga Primary School!
September 4 2015

Mobile Library Comes to Maunga Primary School!

This July, we introduced Book Club to excited Grade 5 and 6 pupils at Maunga Primary School. These children are always keen to work with us no matter how much hard work we give them!  Grades 5 and 6 are especially important groups for Book Club as Grade 5 is when the switch from being taught in their mother tongue (Tonga for most of our rural pupils) to being taught in English (an additional language for all of our rural pupils) occurs. Children need a high level of English proficiency by the end of Grade 7 so that they can pass their final exams and be offered a place at secondary school. For most of our rural children, their exposure to English outside of school is limited to infrequent trips to town and attendance at our ALERT Education Centre clubs. This is why we are so focused on making every minute we spend with them count.

August is school holiday time in Zambia and although we know that many of our children are busy helping out with chores and looking after younger siblings at home, we wanted to keep Book Club running for those who could attend.  As a special incentive, we opened the club up to all ages, told the children to bring any baby brothers and sisters they were looking after, and let everyone at Maunga Primary know that the library, and therefore the opportunity to borrow books, would start during the first week of the holidays.  On 13th August, a group of 7 community interns, volunteers, researchers and members of staff turned up to Maunga Book Club with two boxes full of books -donated by our lovely friends from around the world - for the children to borrow. Once they understood how to use the library, the twenty children who attended that week set to work decorating the library boxes.  Adults and children all helped with the art work and spent time reading and talking together.  We even had time to have a chat with some interested adults who wandered across the school playground to see what was going on at Maunga School today.

Book Club 1

Céline (from Switzerland) with Naomi

Book Club 2

Library box art work at Maunga

Although Book Club is always about learning English, the emphasis changes during the holidays from being lesson-focused to a more workshop-oriented approach.  Because we don’t want children who cannot attend to miss out on important lessons, and because it’s holiday time and we’re all up for some extra fun, we play even more games than usual and adapt the activities to suit the needs of the individual children who turn up.  The little ones – and big ones too! - love playing with the plastic letters donated by Coventry University and our community intern, Céline.  Volunteer coordinator, Angela, have lots of games to help the children learn the names and, more importantly, the sounds of the letters. 

Book Club 3

Angela teaching phonics by playing Word Scramble

An unexpected bonus during August has been seeing some extra, as well as some familiar faces we haven’t seen in a while, turn up.  Our “regulars” often bring cousins who are spending the holidays with them in their villages. This is especially helpful for us when these family members are from town and so can help with teaching English. We’ve also been reunited with some of our Book Club graduates who are now in secondary school.  They’ve started coming back during the holidays to ask for extra help in English, Maths, Science, Geography and other subjects and we are so excited to catch up on all their news and to see how they’re getting on. 

Book Club 4

Philip getting some extra Maths help from one of our Icelandic volunteers

One thing that doesn’t change during the holidays is our emphasis on phonics.  Phonics has proven to be an important and really fun addition to Book Club and we start every session with letter-sound based activities.  Because English phonics is new for all of these children, we run these sessions as whole group activities with lots of games and lots of giggles!  Every activity is designed to help children of all reading ages learn to listen carefully to the sounds when saying a word and then to link the sounds with the correct letter combinations.  Céline is a qualified primary school teacher trained to teach early phonics and she has incorporated many of the activities she uses when teaching back home into these phonics sessions. She gets the children laughing while they explore differences between similar-sounding letters such as “d” and “t” by seeing whether a small piece of paper placed on a hand held in front of their mouths blows away or stays put as they say each sound.  Watching Celine and some of our volunteers illustrate the difference between “m” and “n” – a particularly difficult one for our Maunga children - by trying to make the sounds while holding their noses had the children in fits of laughter and trying it out for themselves.  Result!

We are all looking forward to more Holiday Book Club workshop sessions where everyone can come in and get what he or she needs the most whether this is extra coaching in Maths, books to read at home, reading activities or just an extra bit of attention and a fun way to spend the morning during the school holidays. 

Book Club 5

Book Club 6

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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