September 8 marks the celebration of International Literacy Day with this year’s theme being “Literacy and Sustainable Development.”
Literacy has the power to bring permanent change to people’s lives; it changes the way people think about their personal goals, participate in their communities, and contribute to the development of society. SIL LEAD is proud to see and participate in work that contributes to increased literacy particularly among speakers of lesser-known languages.
Much of the literacy work has been accomplished by teachers themselves who are working with SIL LEAD under USAID’s flagship education program in Uganda, the USAID/Uganda School Health and Reading Program implemented by RTI International, to discover more effective ways to teach young students to read and write. In June, a number of early grade teachers met at the National Curriculum Development center in Kampala, Uganda to develop learning and reading materials for first grade children in five different languages spoken in Uganda. This project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and aims to improve early grade reading and health education for Ugandan students.
The teachers worked alongside SIL LEAD technical experts to develop teachers’ guides and primers, which will be used by local primary schools in areas where the different languages are spoken. Throughout the process of developing materials, teachers showed commitment and determination and were eager to complete these meaningful literacy tools. They expressed excitement about the books they were writing for children of their own communities, which have the power to transform the classroom for both teachers and young learners. They understood the critical importance of how these learning materials will help students read and write by the completion of first grade, which is not common among children of marginalized language groups.
One literacy worker, Maddelene, explains her experience of participating in this project:
“I have been a teacher for fourteen years now... During these years, I have been teaching in the best way I know how using the limited resources available. By covering the curriculum and testing children, I thought that our children were learning. It’s true that some were learning but a majority of them faced obstacles and acquired writing and reading competencies later than they should have. Reasons for this include lack of emphasis on mother tongue instruction while children came to school not knowing any other language but their local languages. The other reasons that contribute to the mentioned problem are the inadequate reading and teaching resources in local languages and the lack of training for teachers on how to teach in local languages.
Coming to the materials development workshop has opened my eyes and I can now point out things that need improvement to enable our children to be able to read and write at an early stage. While developing materials for our children, I have learnt how to write stories and how to teach reading and writing. These skills are not currently being taught and could be one of the reasons why children are leaving lower grades without basic reading and numeracy skills. I am excited with the materials we are currently developing. I believe that when they finally reach schools, they will transform the way our children are learning.”
Today SIL LEAD celebrates International Literacy Day alongside teachers like Maddelene who are working to provide younger generations with the keys to sustainable development through the transformational power of literacy.