Donors have launched a four-year national reading programme (NRP) with a call for concerted efforts for the intervention to suceed.
The programme aims at improving the provision of teaching and learning materials, teachers’ reading instruction skills and engage communities in the activities of public schools.
The two donors, the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and Department for International Development (DfID), respectively, have contributed $70 million (K52 billion) and $6.8 million (K5.2 billion) towards the programme.
To make the programme work, government has already printed 1 358 732 Chichewa books and 1 358 732 English books for Standard One learners in all public schools nationwide.
It has also trained 10 518 teachers, 5 300 head teachers and 5 554 primary school infant section heads to enable them acquire the necessary skills for teaching learners to read.
Speaking during the official launch of the programme at Nahatobo Primary School in Chitipa on Friday, USAid Senior Adviser for International Education, Christie Vilsack, said the success of the programme depends on a number of factors and, as investors, they want success.
She said it takes partners like government to provide books and pay teachers on time for the children to learn to read so that they read to learn.
Said Vilsack: “The programme belongs to Malawi now. We have been willing to help and we did the pilot programme. While we have helped and want to continue to be partners, it belongs to the people of Malawi.”
USA Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer stressed the need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders in the education sector for the programme to work.
“Foundational learning is very important for the development in Malawi because you can’t read to learn unless you first learn to read. For this programme to work, it requires leadership, the technical knowhow, not just from government, but also from other stakeholders such as teachers, learners and community members.
She said they will continue training teachers to be conversant with the programme and expand distribution of books to Standards Two to Four in the next academic calendar.
British High Commissioner Simon Mustard said teachers need more support.
“We have lived in the days before the Internet and smartphones, so we all had to read. That is why we are deeply committed to supporting this programme. For it to succeed it may take time, but we must all work together towards attaining that success,” said Mustard.
On his part, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano said NRP has come at the right time to reverse the plummeting standards of education in the country.