TTL aides Lusaka schools with literature

In August, USAID Time to Learn Zambia (TTL) donated learning and teaching materials, along with clothing to students of the St. Patrick’s School in Lusaka. TTL supports community schools, which enroll the most economically disadvantaged children who struggle with both psychosocial and academic issues. 

Majority of children at community schools in Zambia have no access to reading materials to support their learning. While the ideal pupil-book ration is five to one, statistics indicate that the lack of adequate reading materials has forced 100 pupils to share a book at community schools. As a result, the quality of eduction at community schools is often poor with pupils’ reading culture extremely low.

Zambia, like many other developing countries, continues to face challenges that hamper children from achieving high performance in education due to inadequate teaching and learning materials, especially books.

According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Measuring Eduational Quality (SACMEQ) report of 2010, Zambia is among the three SAMCMEQ countries with low levels of reading. The report further attributes the low reading culture in Zambia to the lack of teaching and learning materials such as books.

In a bid to address this situation, Time to Learn (TTL), a USAID/Zambia flagship program aimed at improving education at community schools, recently donated teaching and learning materials to 150 community schools in the Lusaka district.

The donation was in line with TTL’s belief that community schools are critical in Zambia.

About 20% of pupils in basic education attend community schools. But these community schools have got a lot of work to do because they enroll the most economically disadvantaged children who struggle with both psychosocial and academic issues.

This is why TTL, which is funded by USAID, did not only make a donation of learning and teaching materials but also an assortment of clothes for the pupils. 

Speaking during the donation at St Patrick’s School in Lusaka, TTL deputy chief of party Jen Kennedy said the project envisages reaching out to six provinces in Zambia; Eastern, Southern, Muchinga, Copperbelt, Central and Lusaka.

The donation included books for grades 1 to 4 learners plus an assortment of clothes for orphans and vulnerable pupils. TTL also helps primary school graders to transition to secondary education. 

"We strive to provide an equitable standard of education service for vulnerable learners, improve reading skills and implement practical engagement in community schools,” Ms. Kennedy said.

She believes quality education can only be achieved when schools have basic learning and teaching materials, especially books.

“It is common knowledge that is books are inadequate or absent, children are at a disadvantage and their ability to learn is negatively impacted. We cannot talk about quality education without the existence of basic needs such as teaching and learning materials” Ms. Kennedy said.

The donation of the reading materials is expected to result in significant improvement in the literacy levels, school attendance and improved pupil-teacher contact time. It is not the first time TTL is extending a generous literacy material empowerment charity. It has in the recent past provided over 100 phones loaded with literacy lessons and video content to several schools. And to ensure that teachers are equipped with necessary skills, TTL also provides trying to teachers and community support groups.

“This is not the end of the TTL support to community schools, we are currently printing more than 500 operational guidelines of all community schools in Lusaka,” Ms. Kennedy said.

The organization will soon embark on training to support literacy instruction in all community schools that are aligned with the Ministry of the General Education’s primary literature program. In its quest to complement Government’s desire to improve literacy levels through increase support to community schools, TTL has been working with the Ministry of General Education, Forum for Women Educations in Africa and the Campaign for Female Education. The agenda is to meet the needs of vulnerable children in schools and ensure that they get an education that will improve their welfare in the future.

For a government, the donation of the teaching and learning materials by TTL is a progressive development which will help improve the quality of education. Lusaka Provice education officer Felix Ngoma said the donation was timely because inadequate learning and teaching skills have continued to hinder children from achieving high performance in school.

“Although community schools outperform conventional ones at primary levels, they have markedly lower reading levels between grades one and four,” Mr Ngoma said.

The donation is also expected to motivate pupils to attend class. “When schools lack access to adequate teaching and reading materials, attendance drop and the quality of learning is compromised,” Mr Ngoma said.

He said a government will continue to work with NGOs such as TTL which are committed to improving literacy levels in the country.  Over the last 4 years, TTL has donated over 35,000 teaching and reading materials in Lusaka district alone. At the national level, the project provided over 46,000 boys and girls with scholarships. 

“And these achievements are bearing fruits because most of the pupils on scholarships have completed schools and are ready to go out to university,” 

He said the Government will continue to appreciate support from organizations like TTL because the lack of teaching and learning materials in community schools can only be addressed in collaboration with other stakeholders, especially the private sector. A good reader is a good leader, therefore, government and other stakeholders should ensure that reading and learning materials are accessible to pupils, who are the future leaders of the nation.

TTL intends to improve reading instruction for 500,000 pupils in Zambia’s community schools.

From the Zambia Daily Mail article, "TTL aides Lusaka schools with literature" by Chomba Musika. Reprinted with permission.

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