LITERACY RATES RISE FOR JAMAICA'S PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

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Sunday, January 10, 2016
Orlando Scarlette practices his spelling with his mother Blossom Rhoden.
Digicel Foundation Jamaica

January 2016—Twelve-year-old Orlando Scarlette sounds out each word and reads his book with confidence. You can see the big, bright smile on his face. He is proud of himself because he can read.

This was not always the case.

In 2013, when Orlando entered third grade in Jamaica, it quickly became apparent that his reading ability was five levels below what is expected of a 9-year-old.

“Orlando displayed very limited phonetic competency and he was easily distracted,” said Dorcas Myrie, Orlando’s teacher at Petersfield Primary and Infant School. “He was unable to state the sounds of letters, decode printed words, or even understand the material in books. Nonetheless, he showed a desire to read.”

Myrie wasn’t ready to give up on her student. She placed the quiet and reserved boy in a literacy enrichment program to help him overcome his challenges.

With USAID funding, the Digicel Foundation’s Enrichment Initiative to Increase Literacy at the Primary School Level helps the Ministry of Education to boost literacy levels by integrating technology with other classroom materials, and by emphasizing student, teacher and parental participation. The program has expanded to 104 schools across Jamaica, impacting approximately 43,000 students.

The program had a positive effect on Orlando almost immediately. In one year, he showed remarkable improvement, increasing his literacy by two grade levels. That same year, Orlando was awarded Student of the Year for his extraordinary achievement.

After two years, Orlando jumped a total of six grade levels, and successfully mastered the grade four literacy test.

Myrie sees a real, positive change in her student. “Orlando has transformed from a student who was shy and withdrawn—always trying to make himself invisible—to becoming very active in class, talking and smiling with classmates. He participates in discussions and volunteers to collect and return resources, eagerly demonstrating how to use them to peers having challenges.”

For Orlando, the enrichment program did more than just improve his reading ability. It provided him the confidence he needs to grow and interact positively with his classmates.

The Enrichment Initiative runs from April 2013 to March 2016.

Last updated: June 21, 2022

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