September 08, 2014 10:19 ET

CODE and DFATD Partner Up to Improve Education for Close to 40,000 Kenyan Children

Literacy Promotion Project Gets $3M in Funding

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 8, 2014) - A literacy promotion project that will benefit close to 40,000 children from marginalized communities in Kenya will receive $3M in funding over the next four years from the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).

CODE a Canadian NGO that has been advancing literacy and learning around the world for 55 years and its local partner, the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NDBCK) will use the funding to help improve the reading and writing skills of early primary school (Kindergarten to Grade 3) students in the Kajiado region through the implementation of Reading Kenya, CODE's comprehensive, result-based readership initiative.

"Canada is proud to help advance literacy in marginalized regions of Kenya," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. "Over the long term, disadvantaged children and youth will gain the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to realize their full potential, participate in local economic development and will build a solid foundation for poverty reduction in Kenya."

"In Kajiado, a semi-arid region of southwest Kenya, the reality is that too few teachers are adequately-prepared to teach reading and writing and schools are unable to supply the engaging books needed to motivate students to read and learn for pleasure," said CODE Executive Director Scott Walter. "With Reading Kenya, CODE and NBCDK are using our combined expertise and experience to help under-served communities address this and to help develop a culture of reading so children can grow up to be critical thinkers, life-long learners and have a better chance at a bright future."

The project approach is based on three main elements: providing professional development to teachers; increasing access to culturally-relevant and engaging materials; and building the capacity of the local education system. Over the course of four years, some 350 teachers as well as county education officials will receive training on effective, child-centered strategies to promote literacy in their classrooms. Seventy school libraries will receive collections of children's books in English, Kiswahili and Maa and workshops to provide training to local writers on how to write engaging books for young readers will be held annually.

The main focus of Reading Kenya will be on helping students advance their literacy skills in their mother-tongue which is the language of instruction in lower primary grades so they can be better prepared to make the transition to English and Kiswahili once they reach Grade 4, as required by the current education system in Kenya.

"We know from experience that in order for students to be successful in school in a second language, they have to gain solid reading and writing skills in the language they speak at home first. In Kajiado, books in Maa the main mother-tongue spoken in the region are rare, and teachers don't always know how to teach reading and writing in that language," said Walter. "That's where Reading Kenya comes in."

CODE and NDBCK hope that the results of the project will influence national policy on literacy education, particularly in the area of support to mother-tongue with a transition to national languages. The partners will work with the Ministry of Education, Kenya's Teachers Service Commission and other stakeholders in the education sector to determine ways the project can contribute to policy, practice and curriculum development in Kajiado, and Kenya as a whole.

Special attention will also be given to gender equality, and activities that encourage girls and young women to stay in school or further develop their literacy skills are planned throughout the project.

Although Reading Kenya will focus on early primary grades, older students will also benefit from the project, as some of the books that will be provided to schools and libraries will cater to students in Grades 4 to 8. CODE's Burt Award for African Literature, which supports the writing and publication of high-quality fiction in English for young adults (from 12 to 18 years old,) has also been present in Kenya since 2011.

"All our activities in Kenya have the same objective: to carry the importance of language and reading skills, from early childhood through adulthood," says Walter.

CODE will build on a previous Reading Kenya project implemented in Kiisi County which gained recognition as a model in literacy promotion, and led to a positive, on-going change among teachers, student and the community.

Other country-specific adaptations of the Reading CODE model are also currently being successfully implemented in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana and Mali.

About CODE

With 55 years of evolving success, CODE is Canada's leading international development agency uniquely focused on advancing literacy and education in some of the world's regions in greatest need. By acting to establish and ignite engaging learning environments through the development and publishing of locally authored and designed children books, training teachers and teacher-librarians, resourcing libraries as well as distributing significant numbers of high quality reading materials, CODE focuses on inspiring young minds to improve their literacy and comprehension with the hope that they become critical thinkers and life-long learners all in working towards nurturing a literate civil society.

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