LUCY LUMBE, Livingstone
DESPITE concerted efforts to increase the literacy levels in the country, there is still so much to be done for this to become a reality. So what then can be done to improve the reading and writing culture in the country?
According to the British Council in Zambia, the literacy rate in 2013 stood at 70.6 percent, putting the country on the 25th position out of 54 countries in Africa and 142nd out of 193 countries worldwide.
In 1966, UNESCO celebrated its first International Literacy Day with the aim of communicating the importance of reading and writing to individuals, communities, and nations around the world.
The 43rd President of the United States, George W Bush, once said, “You teach a child to read and he or she will be able to pass a literacy test.”
But teaching a child how to read and write will not only enable a child to pass a literacy test, instead with the knowledge gained, the child’s well-being and social status will improve.
With the aim of promoting literacy in the country, a Livingstone-based organisation, Go Ye Therefore (GYT), has embarked on a programme aimed at enhancing literacy in schools in the southern region.
GYT country coordinator Maimbolwa Muliwana said there is need to promote and enhance a good reading culture to improve literacy levels in the country.
“The quality of future leaders can be seen by the quality of education that is being delivered, meaning there is need to enhance the quality of education if we want to see an improvement in the literacy levels,” Ms Muliwana said.
Three schools in Livingstone have so far benefited from the programme with the establishment of a literacy club in all the three schools called the ‘Litclub’.
GYT has picked on Nyanzabili Community School, Zambezi Primary School and Maramba Primary School for the establishment of literacy clubs with the aim of rolling out the programme to other schools.
Mr Muliwana said the setting up of literacy clubs is a way of enhancing literacy levels amongst pupils.
With the aim of complementing Government’s efforts of enhancing literacy levels, Mr Muliwana said there is need for parents and guardians to take keen interest to ensure that pupils participate effectively in the initiative.
“This programme will roll out to other parts of the country as a way of ensuring that literacy is enhanced and improved countrywide and not only to one particular area,” he said.
Mr Muliwana said since the literacy clubs were set up in the three schools, affiliated pupils have shown improvement in reading and writing.
“I remember coming to this school with my team and the pupils here were unable to read and it was quite saddening, but after many pupils joined the club, change is definitely impressive and shocking,” he said.
“I am amazed after working closely with the school for a year now through the literacy club, the pupils here in Nyanzabili school are able to read and write with no challenges. The change is tremendous and it makes us proud as a team,” Mr Muliwana.
And Nyanzabili Community School head teacher Dorothy Mwachinondo said the gap between fast and slow learners is narrowing as pupils become literate.
“With the literacy club, pupils are able to learn as one group, whether slow learners or fast learners. The pupils interact, read and write with passion, hence the drastic improvement in their reading and writing skills,” Ms Mwachinondo said.
She said some pupils perform badly due to lack of support from their parents and guardians.
Jonathan Chingumbe, an 11-year-old Grade Five pupil, said the literacy club has helped him improve his reading skills, which were below average.
“I joined the club a few weeks ago and my interest in reading has improved and I’m happy with what the organisation is doing in our school,” he said.
Jonathan, who keeps up with an 87-year-old grandmother, Margret Siponono, said challenges at home have not affected his love and interest for reading and writing.
Government has over the years made strides in promoting and improving literacy amongst pupils in all schools countrywide, thanks to the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) 2006– 2010.
In the FNDP, Zambia set the target of hiring 5,000 teachers annually to bring the teacher-pupil ratio to acceptable standards, especially in rural areas.
Given such efforts by Government and support of organisations like GYT, education in Zambia will take an upward trajectory.
LUCY LUMBE, Livingstone