The country's National Reading Programme (NRP) goes into second year targeting standard one to four pupils in all primary schools across the country. The programme is aimed at improving reading and language skills among learners.
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) has disclosed that the programme's second year began on the 18th of September, 2017 (the 2017/18 academic year).
The NRP is a Government of Malawi programme that aims to improve the reading and language skills of learners from Standards one to four through the provision of evidence-based student textbooks and teacher guides, enhancement of teachers' reading instructional skills, and the engagement of communities in building a reading culture at home and in communities.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing over US$70 million (about MK53 billion) in technical and financial assistance to the NRP. Under the NRP, USAID is also managing an additional contribution of US$6.8 million (about MK5 billion) from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DfID).
Efforts under the NRP will benefit over 6 million Standard 1-4 students through 2020.
According to the Ministry of Education, the NRP is delivering basic education priority of ensuring that learners in all public primary schools are able to read, write, speak, and understand English and Chichewa at the appropriate level as outlined in the Education Sector Implementation Plan (ESIP) II.
The programme is expected to increase students' reading fluency and comprehension levels by, among others, improve language instruction for early grade learners in Standards one to four; promote parental, family, and community engagement in supporting learners' reading; create safer learning environments and access to learning for all students in Standards one to four; and enhance the capacity of the MoEST to sustain improvements in reading outcomes.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, MoEST through the NRP with USAID and DfID support, developed, printed, and distributed 1,358,732 Chichewa books and 1,358,732 English books for all Standard 1 learners in all public primary schools across the country.
For the 2017-2018 academic year, the NRP with USAID funding is printing and distributing 5,486,102 Standard two to four Chichewa and English textbooks to 5,549 primary schools nationwide.
"By the end of this year, the NRP will have printed and distributed over 8.2 million new textbooks to all MoEST primary schools nationwide. The NRP also includes support for students with special needs through the provision of braille and large print materials," MoEST Public Relations Officer, Lindiwe Chide explained in a statement issued on Thursday and made available to Nyasa Times.
"The NRP is improving the reading instructional skills of well over 50,000 Standard 1-4 teachers nationwide. After receiving training in August and September, 2017, over 41,000 Standard 2-4 teachers are now prepared to teach with the new, evidence-based NRP learners' books and teachers' guides that will reach Standard 2-4classrooms nationwide this year. All Standard 1 teachers were trained during the rollout of Standard 1 materials in the previous academic year."
Chide said the programme is working on expanding learning time from schools into communities and homes by working with communities to provide after-school reading opportunities and to encourage students to attend school on time every day, textbooks in hand and ready to learn.
The NRP approach has adopted the Social Behavioral Change and Communication (SBCC) platform to reach all communities with the messages contained in the MoEST's2016 circular highlighting the important features of the NRP such as maximum use of the extended learning time in school, teacher adherence to scripted lesson plans, and achieving smaller class sizes by avoiding "team teaching."