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Literacy: a life-changing chance for children in Zambia

21st June 2016 | Blog

Our partner Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) provides quality schooling and education for children  who cannot attend government schools. Often, children in Zambia miss out on their opportunity to attend government school, either because the nearest school is too far away or because their families cannot afford school uniforms or exercise books. We partner with them in this work by donating brand new books to ensure community schools have libraries that are well stocked with new and relevant books. Cleo Muma, Programme and Advocacy Manager at ZOCS tells us how the books are used in the schools and the difference they make to the students.

Kububa Community School is located in Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp in Kaoma District in the Western Province of Zambia. The school has a total of 544 learners, both boys and girls. The school has 12 untrained Community School teachers, four classrooms and currently caters for Early Childhood Education through to grade 7.

In Zambia, English is taken as a subject in early grades and young children are taught in their local language, which in this area is Lozi. From Grade 5 onwards though, English becomes the language of instruction in almost all subjects so it’s important that learners are slowly introduced to English during their education up to this point. Unless this happens, the transition to English as the language of instruction can be very challenging and it’s a time when many children drop out of school.

Until recently, Kububa Community School lacked the appropriate learning materials to introduce children in early grades to English and as a result learners had little understanding of English when they had to make the full transition in Grade 5.

In 2015, Kububa Community School’s dream of improving their literacy levels came to reality when Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) visited the school and distributed books from Book Aid International. The books are colourful, simple phonics books, designed to help young readers learn the basics of spelling and building words in English. By using these simple books, children were able to identify, sound out, read and write simple words in English after just a term in school.

ZOCS - children reading

“Phonics provides the key that unlocks the mystery of reading and education is the greatest equaliser in life” says Dorcus, who is one of the children at Kububa Community School.

Teachers are now encouraging children to apply themselves to their reading. They give prizes such as sweets or even applause from the rest of the class for children who are making the most effort to improve in their reading.

ZOCS - books handed out

“Children need to have a good grasp of phonics in order to learn to read and write. They need to know their letter sounds and how to segment and blend. Phonics teaching has proved to be easier than the schemes we were using before. We thank Book Aid International and ZOCS who have deliberately chosen to complement Government efforts of improving literacy levels in all communities.” Mr. Chikwekwe, Refugee Camp Co-ordinator.

Kububa Community School students are now some of the most confident, vibrant and enthusiastic children in the district and their literacy rates have improved greatly.

We are proud to be able to support ZOCS in their important work to bring education to vulnerable children in Zambia. Last year we sent 28,505 new books to ZOCS for use in schools. You can find out more about our work with ZOCS in this short film or by reading Cleo’s story of her work with the organisation.  

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Learn more about Zambia Open Community Schools.
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Read about our work to supply books to schools.
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