Written by: Marine Steffny
African Impact’s Adult Literacy program in Livingstone, Zambia has been in full swing for a number of years. In September 2014, the head teacher of Linda Community asked us to offer literacy courses to the residents of Linda Disabled Farm, to which we quickly agreed. We made this available to all who wished to take part, regardless of disabilities and levels of literacy, and set up a training scheme so that community members would be able to lead the sessions. Once this was in place, we launched the course.
Ground rules were set, initial assessments were done, and attendance grew swiftly as word spread. We made sure everyone understood the importance of regular attendance, and were strict on our closing date for registration. Our initial findings showed that the students needed to be split into groups according to their literacy levels. We began with three groups – basic, for those unable to read; intermediate, for those working on their basic written English skills; and advanced, for those more confident and able to focus on advanced punctuation, budgeting, letter writing, and a bit of work on CVs.
Students in this group are led by African Impact staff and community members trained in the use of the Happy Readers reading scheme. This is a carefully designed series of books which have been written specifically for use in Africa for those learning to read English as a second language. Students thrive on this scheme and enjoy learning to read from these books.
A short while into the first course, it quickly became apparent that the students were learning at different paces, and therefore we split this group in two. The first group worked at a slower pace and completed half of the content during the twelve week course. The second group was able to work at a quicker pace, and completed all nine books of the Happy Readers Level One.
Six students completed the Happy Readers scheme. At first, five students were able to recognise just half of the letters of the alphabet. Now they can identify all of them, have read five of the Happy Readers books, and can independently pick out about fifteen new words. This is a huge achievement for them!
This group is led by African Impact volunteers, and covers a range of topics in a fun and interactive way. Students join in with plenty of enthusiasm, and always learn a great deal from the volunteers. Subjects include identification of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, together with sentence construction, punctuation, and basic arithmetic. After the first course was completed, the average grade had improved dramatically, from 48% to an incredible 82% – once again, a fantastic accomplishment all round.
Initially, this group was led by a student from Victoria Falls University who had a special interest in adult literacy. Key areas included the use of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, plus sentence and paragraph construction. Additional topics included letter writing, budgeting, and how to write a simple CV. Although it was a small group, it needed pushing and encouragement; unfortunately, halfway through the course the teacher was unable to continue, and we had to find a replacement. For the remainder of the course, students were taught by African Impact staff and volunteers, and although it was a successful hand-over, we think that it may have had an effect on the overall improvement rates in comparison to the other groups. On average, students made a 19% improvement, with scores going up from 44% to 63%.
Overall, forty students completed our first course here in Linda Community, with lessons held twice a week. We agreed that on Tuesdays, lessons would be at Linda Community School, and on Thursdays, at Linda Disabled School, and it worked really well. A small and informal graduation ceremony was held to recognise all the hard work put in by each student, and those who passed the course received certificates in honour of their dedication. Those who had made good progress were also awarded certificates.
Following a general discussion with the students, it’s been decided that we’ll take a break during the rainy season, as it’s difficult for them to attend lessons on a regular basis. The course will resume at the end of February.
You can be a part of the next English classes that take place in Linda Community by joining our Teaching and Community Development Project in Livingstone, Zambia.