Link Community Development

Improving the quality of education in Africa

Language and Literacy in Rural Wolaita

Tutored girls

The ‘Language and Literacy in Rural Wolaita’ project will operate in 45 elementary schools in the impoverished Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS), where population growth has placed enormous pressure on land for subsistence farming as well as on all social service provision. Working in 45 schools across two marginalised, densely populated woredas (districts) of Wolaita, this project will reach 41,126 disadvantaged learners. The project delivery approach is distinctive through its support of local delivery structures and its emphasis on capacity-building, engagement and dissemination with community members and policy-makers.

Total funding: $621,497

Date: June 2015 – November 2017

The challenge

Learner outcomes in Wolaita remain poor. In our target areas the predominant livelihood is subsistence farming; there is 77% absolute poverty, limited land for agriculture and increasing HIV/AIDS infection. Learners do not achieve results comparable with national averages. The Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) findings from our Girls’ Education Challenge Fund baseline survey in November / December 2013 (the first ever EGRA testing conducted in Wolaita Zone) showed that there are major weaknesses in both Wolaitigna reading (the mother tongue and language of instruction for grades 1 – 4) and English reading.

Correlations showed that those who did well in English performed best overall, indicating the key role of language and literacy, and the need for innovative interventions.

The quality of instruction and the proficiency of teachers to teach in English is poor, there is a lack of language teaching and learning resources, and there is a lack of capacity amongst teachers, school administrators, community members and parents to support learners.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Education has introduced the English Language Quality Improvement Programme (ELQIP) that aims to improve the English language competence of teachers and pupils, but ELQIP has not been cascaded to the grass roots level in Wolaita or adapted to incorporate mother tongue instruction and literacy.

Project Aims

There is a clear need to support the teaching of both Wolaitignya and English reading in Wolaita elementary schools. What this project intends to achieve supports and develops government’s priorities and policies and nationally identified gaps which affect the quality of education.  It works through existing structures so as to generate relevant learning. Rather than taking a single approach such as building teachers’ skills or stocking libraries or improving school administration, this project uses a multi-pronged, holistic approach that has students at its heart and includes teachers, school managers, government educational offices and the local community. 

Project Activities

  1. Baseline study to get accurate benchmarks of current standards of language teaching and literacy levels
  2. Development of Wolaitignya Language Improvement Framework and ‘language and literacy’ training modules for teachers, school directors and woreda officials
  3. Intensive language and literacy training annually for all teachers in 45 elementary schools in Damot Sore (year 1) and Damot Woide (year 2) woredas.
  4. Training annually for all school directors, deputy directors and Language Lead Teachers in managing language and literacy initiatives
  5. Training annually for woreda experts and cluster supervisors (Damot Sore in year 1 and Damot Sore and Damot Woide in year 2)
  6. Annual literacy planning workshops with full team of woreda staff. These aim to showcase the current status of reading in the woreda and raise awareness through case studies of schools who have successfully improved reading levels. Woreda staff will also draft and endorse woreda-level plans for supporting reading in schools during the workshop. We hope that this will garner political support for literacy initiatives. The workshops will also enable some local level policy advocacy (for example around instructional time allocated for reading).
  7. Provision of language and literacy ‘resource boxes’ for every school. These will include teachers’ guides which have examples of learner assessments as well as fully specified lesson plans with an emphasis on reading. They will also include approximately 500 supplementary reading books per school in English, Amharic and Wolaitignya which students can use in class and take home.
  8. Annual ‘reading open days’ to disseminate information to school stakeholders and the local community around current and target reading levels. These aim to promote parents holding schools accountable for the reading performance of their learners and to motivate and encourage parents in supporting their children with reading. These will be supplemented by reading competitions at school and cluster level, organized in collaboration with school reading clubs.
  9. Tutorial classes for students who are weaker in reading in the upper grades (5 - 8). The tutorials will target learners whose performance is below average. We aim to reach a total of 2,310 students in Damot Sore woreda during year 2 and a total of 5,460 students in Damot Sore and Damot Woide woredas in year 3.
  10. Site-based support for all project schools to enable increased contact time between supervisors and school staff. The support will include coaching for teachers and support to mini assessments and will be ongoing throughout the project cycle.