Over 4,500 learners in grade three to five have benefited from the accelerated learning programme which has provided a steady improvement in reading skills in the three counties it has been implemented. The programme which is being implemented by Safaricom Foundation and Zizi Afrique through literacy and numeracy camps, has seen children being able to read and learn basic numeracy, within thirty days in Bungoma, Turkana and Tana River counties.
It aims to support learners lagging behind to acquire foundational literacy and numeracy skills within a short period of time. Each county has forty schools participating in the programme. These new revelations were shared during a forum at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development where the Ministry of Education representatives, implementing partners from the counties, civil society actors and funders met to learn, reflect and share experiences.
The programme that started in 2018 in sixty schools has expanded to one hundred and twenty in the three counties. Currently, over 9,000 learners have been enrolled – 5,674 in literacy and 3,754 in numeracy. It identifies learners who lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills as well as those who, after assessment, cannot read a grade two level story.
“As we make strides in our curriculum reform process, we need to plan with the needs of those farthest behind first. A solid foundation gives children a start to learn and raises their confidence to participate during the learning process,” commented, Dr. John Mugo, executive director, Zizi Afrique Foundation. “Children like Simiyu, a grade four pupil in Bungoma county, could not recognize syllables in Kiswahili at the beginning of the programme. But, within twenty days, the boy could read words without support. After thirty days, Simiyu could fluently and competently read stories in Kiswahili. This has restored his confidence, evident during whole class reading sessions where he volunteers to read aloud to the class. He has also risen as a peer leader, supporting his friends during learning session,” said Dr. Mugo.
The story is the same in Tana River and Turkana, with tens of learners acknowledging the turn-around experienced through the programme. This has been made possible through teacher assistants, who are trained to equip them with strategies they need to hasten the acquisition of these skills.
Reflecting on the training, Sylvester, a teacher assistant in Turkana notes that the skills he gained have made it easy for him to teach and now enjoys supporting learners who need extra help with basic skills. “There are many other learners countrywide who are struggling to read. The programme, has demonstrated that those farthest behind in their literacy and numeracy skills can be supported within a short period of time. The skills they acquire not only raise their confidence among their peers, but also set stage for more participation during learning,” noted Peter Magiri, the County Director of Education, Turkana.
An assessment done in 2018 revealed that most learners in Bungoma, Turkana and Tana River continued to fall behind their grade level expectations. The assessment showed that among all the class three to eight learners assessed, only three out of five could read a grade two level text in Kiswahili. Half of the children in class five could not read a similar level text in English
“One of our focus areas as a foundation is to improve literacy and numeracy among children, provide relevant learning materials and improve learning spaces. From the research we have seen, the low levels of learning pointed out the need to refocus our attention not only in learning, but most importantly, a focus on the basics, to equip our learners with foundational competencies that help them start the journey of independent learning,” said Fawzia Ali, trustee, Safaricom Foundation.
The programme is implemented through county-based partners, CREADIS, SAPCONE and Maridhiano in Bungoma, Turkana and Tana River counties respectively. Teacher assistants undergo a retooling process to equip them with strategies that facilitate learning in an interactive and friendly environment. Beyond the focus counties, Zizi has partnered with other organizations, and pilots of similar work have been conducted in Samburu, Migori, Marsabit, Kajiado and Nairobi counties.