The ability to read and to write is something that many of us take for granted. It is ultimately fundamental to our everyday lives. But sadly it is something that millions of people around the world cannot do.
One key development indicator is a country’s literacy rate. Illiteracy is a serious problem across Malawi and indeed, throughout Africa. Without the ability to read and write people struggle with even basic tasks and face an uphill battle to improve their situations.
According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics Malawi’s literacy rate is 65.75 per cent of the adult population (those aged 15 and over.) This means that there are around seven million people in the country who cannot read nor write. Compare that to the United Kingdom, where we have a literacy rate of 99 per cent.
Temwa recognises the importance of improving the literacy rate amongst rural communities in Malawi and introduced an Early Grade Literacy Programme, which now plays a significant role in the community’s development. The programme focuses on improving basic literacy skills in Nkhata Bay North. As part of this programme Temwa helps to provide supplementary learning materials to school libraries, creates spelling bee competitions and has introduced new reading camps.
Six reading camps were established in 2018 in Usisya and Chikwina by Temwa, an initiative that has been recommended by the Ministry of Education and the Government of Malawi. Within the camps, volunteer reading mentors teach basic literacy skills using resources contributed by School Aid. Learners are taught how to read and write in English and Chichewa, the national language of northern Malawi. Since their introduction in January, the six reading camps have collectively registered an amazing 825 learners.
Samuel Kamanga – Reading Camp Mentor
‘I work with children in my community, to make the children more educated, so to reduce the number of illiterate people in my village’
During a recent participatory review, Temwa caught up with Samuel Kamanga, a reading camp mentor from Usisya. Samuel is 38 years old and comes from Lupiro and was chosen by the community to become the reading camp mentor. Since the camp’s introduction in January there have been 33 reading camp sessions with learners ranging in abilities. In February, the Usisya camp had an average attendance of 93 learners per session, coming from six villages in the surrounding area.
Samuel has had a long standing involvement with Temwa. He was involved in Temwa’s first ever project, helping to build the Usisya Community Hall back in 2004. Trained and later employed as a bricklayer, Samuel reflects that before his training he was aimlessly moving around. He said “At first before I was a bricklayer I was moving around aimlessly. But now I have found something to keep me busy. I help my family and the community.” This training gave him a source of income and enabled him to send his five year old son to nursery school. He has big dreams for the future, as he hopes to create his own building and construction business thanks to the skills that Temwa helped him learn.
Samuel explained the multi-dimensional positive impacts that the reading camps were having on those who attended. During his time as mentor Samuel has seen first-hand improvements in the literacy skills of his learners. A large number of which are currently in government run schools, meaning the camps act as an additional supplement to formal education. Children learn in groups based on their ages, which allows them to feel comfortable while they learn. Few of them will have ever attended nursery schools, meaning the camps offered them a platform to access an educational experience.
As a parent himself, Samuel would recommend the program to other parents, stressing that education is needed in his communities. To help raise attendance and awareness mentors like Samuel will meet with village leaders to encourage more parents to bring their children to the reading camps.
With your continued support Temwa will be able to help incredible mentors like Samuel introduce more and more people to programmes created to help rural communities in northern Malawi.