Expanding Literacy In Our Community

October 12, 2017 8:02 pm Published by

Over the last two months, it’s been a common sight to see six students from Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 class walking into Kitongo with an armful of books each Sunday afternoon. This is a result of JBFC’s expansion to the Family Literacy Program, which started in January 2016. The Form 2 students participate in the program, which serves as their mandatory community service project, for an entire year before handing the program off to the upcoming Form 2 class.

The original program –in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College – strives to encourage reading in the classroom and at home. While starting as a way to encourage parents to become more actively involved in their children’s educations and encourage literacy in the community, it has developed into a four-week seminar that parents take one grade at a time. Over these four weeks, parents discuss the challenges that their children face academically, creative ways to support their children at home, and solutions such as buying more books for their homes, encouraging student to attend school daily, and reading with their children themselves.

It is led by Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Mr. Samo and our Literacy Coordinator, Mr. Simon. The Form 2 students participate in many ways including translating, surveying, providing childcare, and cooking. This program has seen great success and each Wednesday many parents arrive to learn more about their child’s education, while becoming part of the solution to some of the challenges they may face.

This past June, students from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey worked with Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 students to expand this program into the community. Over three days, students from both schools discussed the challenges that the community faces, which range from community members’ lack of access to books to parents not being able to read themselves. What they came up with was partnering with the local Baptist church to create a book nook in their community centre where parents, students, community members, and children, who are not yet in school, can go to read and access books in English and Swahili. The students then scheduled time with the Kitongo Baptist Church and presented the idea to the pastor and some of the church members, officially launching the addition to the program on June 28, 2017.

Under the supervision of two Form 2 students – Emmaculate Immanuel and Peter Nicholas – the program has taken the initial book nook and expanded it. Six students at a time from the Form 2 class rotate going to the church after the Sunday service with an armload of bilingual Swahili-English story books.

Each student finds one or two partners and together they sit and read, often taking turns sounding out words. Participants can ask how to pronounce different words and what they mean in a safe, non-judgmental environment at no cost. If they are struggling with reading in general they can focus on the Swahili text of the book or if they’re striving to learn English, they can focus on that. Typically there are 10 to 12 participants from the congregation and surrounding community that range from toddlers to elders.

This program is looking like it will continue to grow and change to address obstacles, but these first two steps have demonstrated how partnerships and some students creativity can make a huge difference in a community.

This blog was written by two guest bloggers, Jeff DeViller and Emma. Jeff is Mainsprings’ Volunteer Coordinator in Tanzania, and Emma is is one of Mainsprings’ residential girls. She is currently in Form 2 at Joseph and Mary Secondary School. 

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This post was written by Mainsprings