The USAID Let’s Read Project, implemented by the Education Development Center along with VVOB, Kentalis International and Resonance, works with the Zambia Ministry of General Education (MOGE) to improve reading outcomes for approximately 1.4 million children in pre-primary (kindergarten) through Grade 3 in public and community schools. Helping to manage USAID Let’s Read are Ms. Felistas Chuunga, Ms. Mbuwa Kabwe Chikula, and Ms. Maureen Simunchembu.
Ms. Felistas Chuunga, the USAID Let's Read Project's Provincial Office Manager for Southern Province, has worked on multiple projects, including the USAID Time to Learn Project and the UNICEF Zambia & Samuel Hall - Participatory Research for Adolescents Program. She also currently serves as the USAID Let's Read Project's focal point person for gender integration, supporting management and technical staff in determining how to more meaningfully incorporate a gender lens in all activities.
Ms. Mbuwa Kabwe Chikula, Director of Finance & Compliance for USAID Let’s Read is a finance professional with over 17 years of increasing responsibility in accounting, scholarship monitoring, and grants administration for USAID-funded projects. Prior to joining the USAID Let’s Read Project, Mbuwa worked on the USAID Time to Learn Project, PACT, the Academy for Educational Development, FHI 360, and the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia.Ms. Chikula is also a member of the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants and holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Lusaka.
Ms. Maureen Simunchembu, a lifelong educator, and trained teacher, has dedicated 37 years to Zambia's education system in various capacities. She is an expert in continuous professional development for teachers, early grades reading, gender issues in education, and child rights. Prior to being appointed the USAID Let’s Read Project’s Senior Reading Advisor, Maureen served in a number of technical and managerial positions, including Technical Program Manager for the Zambia Reading for Education and Development Technical Programme with World Vision, Literacy Director for Room to Read Zambia, and District Education Standards Officer for the Lusaka District at the Ministry of Education. Maureen has taught in the mainstream secondary education sector, and continuing education. She holds a Master of Arts in Language Teaching from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts with Education from the University of Zambia.
"I see myself as an active change agent in Zambia’s development! I believe in the power of quality education and the possibilities it provides."
What drives your passion for serving in development assistance?
(Maureen Simunchembu) I see myself as an active change agent in Zambia’s development! I believe in the power of quality education and the possibilities it provides. I’m thrilled when I see a child in the early grades, regardless of their socio-economic status, begin to sound syllables, write and read words and sentences anywhere – in their books, on the classroom board, on the ground, on walls because then I know that with targeted support from teachers and family members the writings will one day become dissertations, inspirational text, research reports, national policies etc.
(Mbuwa Kabwe Chikula) What drives me is excellent service provision. I believe in doing the right thing at the right time. I ensure that I meet deadlines within a specified time frame and provide quality output.
(Felistas Chuunga) As a woman working in the communities and leading a team in a field where leadership is traditionally dominated by men (e.g. head teachers, headmen, PTA Chairpersons), it is gratifying to be able to inspire young girls and women. Through my work, they can see that leadership positions are for women too!
What advice can offer to young people and other women considering a career in development?
My advice to young people in development is that they should be passionate about their career goals, willing to learn new things and be ready to face new challenges.
(Mbuwa Kabwe Chikula) My advice to young people in development is that they should be passionate about their career goals, willing to learn new things and be ready to face new challenges.
(Felistas Chuunga) I encourage women to take up leadership roles in development assistance, as this will serve as a good example to youth, including girls, to take on leadership positions in other fields in future.
(Maureen Simunchembu) My advice to young people hoping to break into the field of development is to think about what kind of work they want to do and then acquire the necessary skills to get there. Working in development can create a great opportunity for exposure to global trends, it is therefore important to ensure they are focused and are passionate about their work. They do have an opportunity to be positive role models to their peers and contribute to the development of the country.
Please share a moment which reinforced your career choice.
"There were a lot of work processes involved and I was proud to be part of a team that wants to see improved literacy levels among learners in Zambia."
(Mbuwa Kabwe Chikula) A memorable moment during my career was when we procured tablets/teaching & learning materials and distributed these items to schools. There were a lot of work processes involved and I was proud to be part of a team that wants to see improved literacy levels among learners in Zambia.
(Felistas Chuunga) One of the most memorable moments has been participating in teacher training activities. At present we have over 1,160 community and Zambian government schools in the province, and we have trained on average five teachers from ECE through to Grade 3, as well as their head teachers, deputy teachers and senior staff in improved reading instructions. It was encouraging to see how excited teachers are to be a part of the process and how eager they are to learn new skills. It was reassuring to see the high levels of talent and professionalism. I am proud to be a part of the team fostering this change!
(Maureen Simunchembu) In my work, I have had many memorable experiences. Under my leadership of the Reading Team for the USAID Let’s Read project we have been able to accomplish several notable achievements. However a recent achievement that I am proud of having led has been the identification – and in some cases development, procurement and distribution of close to 2 million pieces of teaching and learning materials in the seven approved languages of instruction to schools in the provinces that we work.