U.S.-Funded Literacy Program Targets 1.4 Million Early-Grade Students

Students reading in class at Kasupe Primary School in Chipata during the official launch of the USAID Let's Read Program.
Students reading in class at Kasupe Primary School in Chipata during the official launch of the USAID Let's Read Program.
Photo: Chando Mapoma

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Chando Mapoma
+260 211-357-299

CHIPATA, ZAMBIA

On November 12, 2019, the United States and Zambian governments officially launched the USAID Let’s Read project during a ceremony at Kasupe Primary School in Chipata. The U.S. government’s flagship education project in Zambia, Let’s Read is a five-year partnership with the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) designed to improve reading outcomes for approximately 1.4 million pre-primary to Grade 3 children from 4,250 public and community schools in five provinces.

The Let’s Read Project supports the MoGE to implement Zambia’s primary literacy curriculum and increase the number of primary school learners meeting minimum national literacy benchmarks. In 2018, the U.S. government supported the MoGE to administer the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in the project’s five target provinces: Eastern, Muchinga, North Western, Western, and Southern. The 2018 EGRA revealed that only about 10 percent of Grade 2 children read fluently and with comprehension.  Nevertheless, there is encouraging news.  From 2010 to 2018, we have seen the number of children unable to read a single word decrease from 91 to 64 percent. With support from the Let’s Read Project, the MoGE expects to these results to significantly improve over the next five years.

The official launch emphasized the project’s goal of complementing the MoGE’s existing efforts to improve literacy. The Minister of General Education, Honourable David Mabumba, MP, expressed his appreciation of the project, stating he was “thrilled to learn that the USAID Let’s Read Project aims to provide support to the implementation of the Primary Literacy Program (PLP) in our schools.”

Joining the Honourable Minister of Education for the Let’s Read launch event were the Director of USAID/Zambia, Sheryl Stumbras; Minister for Eastern Province, Honourable Makebi Zulu; Chipata District Commissioner, Kalunga Zulu; Paramount Chief Mpezeni and Paramount Chief Gawa Undi; and MoGE Directors and Provincial Education Officers from the Let’s Read target provinces, other government officials, and cooperating partner representatives.

“We understand that improving classroom instruction is not enough. Children spend the majority of their day outside the classroom,” said USAID/Zambia Director Stumbras. “To become good readers, they need to practice in their homes and communities as well. The USAID Let’s Read Project will facilitate a culture of reading in the community and the home.” 

Since official implementation of the project began earlier this year, the Let’s Read project has supported the MoGE to train over 16,000 teachers, head teachers, and other MoGE officials on literacy teaching skills. The project has also collaborated with the MoGE to develop standardized assessments for Grades 1-3 in the seven official local languages of instruction. The project has closely worked with the MoGE to develop, review, and procure over 30,000 literacy teaching and learning materials for Early Childhood Education and Grades 1-3, including picture cards, teachers’ guides, and folk tales.  These materials will be distributed to all target schools in the coming months.  In total, Let’s Read will support the MoGE to develop over five million teaching and learning materials over five years.

Improvements in children’s literacy skills will be closely monitored throughout the life of the project, thanks to a Performance Tracking System (PTS) that was also developed under Let’s Read. The PTS is an online dashboard available to MoGE and project staff that allows for real-time monitoring of performance results from all schools targeted through the project.

Representing a U.S. government investment of approximately $50 million over five years, the USAID Let’s Read project also aims at strengthening the MoGE’s management systems at the national, provincial, district, and school levels. The project will also support school and community-based literacy initiatives through the use of youth volunteers and broaden the reach of the activities through private-sector partnerships and investment. It is expected that these interventions will lead to sustained improvements in learners’ ability to read with fluency and comprehension, as well as writing at grade level in one of the seven official local languages.

Last updated: February 11, 2020

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