Between 2017 and 2018, we partnered with Africa Educational Trust (AET) to implement Yes to Reading, a project aimed to support the education of Maa-speaking children in 14 under-resourced primary schools in Dol Dol, Laikipia County, Kenya. This paper presents our findings.
In Laikipia County only 23% of residents have secondary-level education or higher. In Laikipia North constituency where Dol Dol resides, the rate is the lowest in the whole of Kenya. The local community are mainly Maa-speaking pastoralists whose main economic activity is herding livestock. Their nomadic lifestyle makes it hard for children to attend school as families frequently move in search of pasture for their livestock. In addition, schools in Dol Dol have few book resources beyond curriculum textbooks which are also often limited in number. As a result, illiteracy levels are high. In addition, with few books in school, pupils have no resources to use for assignments or further their knowledge.
The Yes to Reading project aimed to improve learning outcomes of Maa-speaking children by establishing their reading skills in their mother tongue and preparing them for the transition to learn in English (which is a language of instruction in Kenyan schools).
In collaboration with AET, we focussed on four main areas of activity:
- Improving access to books in the local language and English at each of the 14 participating primary schools.
- Training teachers at each school to manage a school library, use books in class and promote reading.
- Promoting reading among the rural communities in Dol Dol to encourage support for reading for information, study and pleasure.
- Monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the project activities and outcomes to inform future project development.
Key findings from the Yes to Reading project included
– Pupils’ learning outcomes have improved
Teachers report that pupils are now writing more interesting compositions and have greater confidence reading and speaking in class as they have a broader vocabulary.
– Pupils reading more regularly
The donation of new books has led schools to set up school libraries and implement library lessons and reading periods.
– Books used more frequently in class
Teachers are using new skills gained in the training to use the new books to teach comprehension and other subjects in class.