The new U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac this week launched the distribution of more than 1.5 million pupil books and teacher guides in twelve local languages and English to more than 5, 000 schools in Uganda.
The U.S, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), also presented the Government of Uganda 54 titles approved by the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) as part of the new national school curriculum.
The titles include teacher guides and pupil reading texts for primary 1- 4, in English and in 12 local languages.
The donation of books aimed at improving reading and health come as a timely intervention for millions of Ugandan children. This is especially after successive independent assessments carried out over the past five years have revealed that Ugandan children are doing badly in these fields compared to their counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania.
For example, successive UWEZO assessments on literacy and numeracy conducted by the highly regarded Twaweza, a Tanzania-based organisation shows that only three out of 10 pupils in Uganda in P3 and P4 could read and understand a story. And two out of 10 pupils in P6 and P7 could not read and understand a P2 test.
Only two out of ten pupils (20 per cent) in the third year of primary school can read and do basic mathematics at P2 level.
The 2014 report revealed for example that only 36 per cent of the pupils that were assessed in Uganda passed both literacy and numeracy tests, compared to 64 percent in Kenya and 48 percent in Tanzania.
At the same time, the focus on improving health is also a timely intervention after reports have showed that children especially girls are sexually abused which forces them to abandon their education.
The embassy noted that through its School Health and Reading Program (SHRP), the USAID is improving reading skills of Ugandan children in primary 1-4 and supporting healthy behaviours among adolescents.
“Additionally, USAID’s Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA) is expanding the early grade reading model to an additional 28 districts. The program also addresses student retention issues by promoting safe school spaces and reducing gender-based-violence in schools,” adds the statement.
The U.S.- funded programs work in close partnership with Ugandan education officials to support the country’s new Thematic Curriculum and Policy, which promotes the use of local languages as the medium of instruction in Ugandan primary schools. The USAID says that by the end of 2016, it will have supported the development of 104 titles of pupil primers and teacher guides.
The titles go through an extensive process of review and vetting by NCDC prior to receiving final approval from the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Sports (MOES).
Ambassador Malac lauded these literacy improvement efforts and emphasized the importance of reading in a child’s development.