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After a teacher is schooled on better classroom techniques, her students learn to read
"I think next year"s grade 7 results for my school will be remarkable," says teacher, Grace Tsiga, referring to the percentage of 7th graders who will pass their final exams. And, when one considers that the grade 7 pass rate at Kanyati primary school in Kachamaenza, Zimabawe was only 13 percent in 2011, "remarkable" will be good news indeed.
Good news has been in short supply in Kachamaenza.
In this dry village of thatched huts and dirt roads, where food is scarce and there is no electricity or piped water, most of the school"s 310 students arrive barefoot and hungry for lessons taught by a staff of only nine teachers. Of these, only four had received any training in education – until recently.
In 2012, Save the Children rolled out comprehensive education programs in six schools in the Matau area thanks to a donation from the Oprah Winfrey Foundation in honor of education advocate Tererai Trent, who grew up in the area.
Under the program, not only have all of the school"s nine teachers been trained, but Save the Children also established after-school reading camps and a reading buddy program for both adults and children. The organization also distributed books and educational supplies and provided workshops in parenting skills, health education and the production of educational toys and materials. The improvements have definitely made an impression on Grace, who teaches the sixth graders. In particular, the Literacy Boost training program, the teachers say, has helped to refresh their knowledge on lesson delivery.
"After I attended the Literacy Boost training for teachers and started applying some of the things I learned, I realized that my students had also improved," says Grace. The training program provides educators with teaching techniques that have proved invaluable to teachers like Grace. "I learned a technique called echo reading, where a teacher reads a sentence and the student repeats it. This technique helps a teacher to note a student"s reading ability and to also track the student"s improvements. When students practice reading as a group, some students tend to dominate the reading. Echo reading allows for one-on-one reading practice with the teacher. It also helps my students to quickly grasp what they have read," Grace explains.
"I also noticed that pairing a child who can read with one who cannot read boosted the confidence of those children who could not read. Most of these children are now actively participating in class," adds Grace.
One such child is 12-year-old Patience, now a seventh-grader. Though Patience is a quiet child who listens to her teachers very well, she had struggled with reading and writing before Literacy Boost came to her community. "She couldn"t read or construct a meaningful sentence," says Grace. "Now she reads for her classmates."
"My teacher was very patient with me," says Patience of Grace, "She would call me and say ‘Come, let me teach you how to read". That is when I learned to read." In addition to benefiting from Grace"s new teaching techniques, Patience is also able to practice her reading at the after school reading camps that Save the Children introduced to the community.
Since participating in the programs, Patience is now also more involved in class activities. "I can read fluently in Shona and I can read in English as well. Once in a while I get some big words that I don"t know. I always ask the reading camp mentors so that they help me. I couldn"t read or write the word "picture", but now I can, and I am happy!" And that is remarkable, too!