Many students arriving for the first time at Nimaro Education Centre had never held a book in their hands. Some were trying to read the books upside down and others were memorized by the pictures. The teachers’ excitement was similar to the children’s - they could not get enough of the pictures and information these books had to offer.
Access to education globally has improved yet literacy rates have mostly stayed the same or even decreased. How can these children, that have been in schools for years, not read?
There are multiple factors that contribute to low literacy rates beyond lacking access to reading materials. Many students have to walk a long distance to school. They may get tired along the way and decide not to go to school that day. Teachers may also decide to not show up to teach due to the fact they have not been paid and have to find work elsewhere or they may be unmotivated and take advantage of a system with no oversight.
The ratio of children to teachers is very high in many developing countries. In the BBC Podcast referenced below, the ratio is 80 children in a classroom of 1 teacher in Kenya. Here in Uganda, it is common to find upwards of 200 children in 1 classroom! Imagine how lost a child must feel in this sea of children.
Teachers only lecture from the front of the classroom. There is little feedback or participation from students. The classrooms are filled with nameless children who are expected to sit, listen and take notes for the whole day.
Beyond literacy, comprehension rates are even lower. Teachers frequently only ask surface-level questions and do not challenge children with critical thinking or problem solving. This education system is setting up the children for failure.
How is Nimaro Education Centre different?
Children and teachers here have hundreds of books to choose from. Books and pictures can take a person to a different place. When teachers talk about an octopus, students can see an actual picture of how it looks!
Classroom sizes are limited to 35 students per class and teachers have been trained to use hands-on learning, class participation and group work. Some of these students receiving this quality education still walk quite a distance to come to the school, however, when they arrive, they are fed breakfast and lunch so they do not have to go through the whole day hungry!
There is a completely different atmosphere when one visits Nimaro versus a Ugandan public school. Our children look forward to coming to school to learn! Our teachers are invested in the lives of the students and want to build them up to be successful. We are happy to provide these children with a solid foundation and start to their lives!
Here is the BBC Podcast: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cswqvk