We have initiated programmes to better organize our efforts in providing access to educational resources. The following are the different programmes we run.
Library Refurbishment Program
We believe that the joy of reading should be for everyone. By creating a space that captures young people’s imaginations and fosters a love of books, literacy can be fun! That’s why we work with Tanzanian volunteers from local universities to create safe, inviting libraries in secondary schools across the country: changing the way Tanzania reads, one book at a time.
Our library programme grew out of an assessed need that secondary school pupils in Tanzania don’t only lack access to books, but that they also lack a safe, quiet, organised space to read and to further their studies. READ libraries are planned in partnership with each school’s management team, Parent Teachers Associations, local government and the local community. To keep costs low, a currently dis-used space in the school is identified to be refurbished into a library and the work is completed over four weeks by five volunteers from local Tanzanian universities. Recruiting local students allows us to make the most of Tanzania’s bright young minds, while giving volunteers an opportunity to develop key employability skills and to lead a project that they can showcase on their CVs.
The five volunteers are given three days training by READ, then work alongside teachers and pupils in the school to clean up the space, make basic repairs, paint, order shelves and furniture from local carpenters, place mesh on windows, sort and reference books and to establish a book loan system. This collaborative, youth-led process ensures a vital sense of ownership and supports the long-term sustainability of the library. We believe in offering a holistic programme that responds to the specific needs of each school. Included is: An inventory of the school’s books and the purchase of new ones to fill the gaps. We provide approx. 1,000 to 2,000 books to each library, which we have found to be the optimal amount. All books follow the national curriculum and include local fiction and textbooks, in English and KiSwahili, reference books, past examination booklets and bilingual dictionaries. See the example below of the current refurbished
Literacy and Reading Program
International education research shows that literacy skills are particularly important for secondary school students, young people who are expected to gain access to cross-curricular content through written materials such as textbooks and teacher notes. However, according to Barrett et. al. (2014) reading ability for the majority of Form 1 students is far below age-appropriate levels. This finding suggests that the majority of students are unable to engage in independent reading for learning, an essential activity that bolsters early adolescents’ capacity to successfully complete secondary school.
In order to maximize the efficacy of the created library, this program focus on reading promotion through establishment of the school-run literacy activities such as reading clubs. The objective is to promote the reading culture among students and teachers, increase their self-esteem, promote independent reading and improve their comprehension and fluency. This is done through the orientation training which is done for the schools’ pupils and teachers on how to use their library, how to find books and on using textbooks. This happens 15-20 pupils at a time over two-days. Ten library prefects are also chosen by the school to monitor the responsible use of the space and to help those in need to use the library fruitfully. When students do gain access to books, they describe using them in a range of ways including in class, for homework, their own reading, as a source of practice questions and preparation for examinations.
In this program, we also promote the Students Buddy Reading; Buddy reading is a research-based approach to literacy skills development, proven to build literacy skills amongst children and youth. Research on this approach completed in similar contexts in Kenya shows that the benefits of buddy reading include increased reading comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, improved confidence in reading, and increased cognitive awareness (HALI, 2012). READ is promoting buddy reading because it has a lot of benefits including increased reading comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, improved confidence in reading, and increased cognitive awareness. School clubs offer a viable format for organizing buddy reading, and the student engagement and attendance.
Teacher Resource Use and Professional Development
Research in Tanzania and across Sub-Saharan African reveals that most teachers are reliant on a limited number of textbooks, and that students very rarely have their own books. As a result, a significant portion of classroom time is spent with students copying notes from the blackboard into their exercise books, as opposed to engaging in active classroom teaching and learning activities (Haki Elimu Working Paper 6).
Through the READ refurbishment program, we ensure that schools have at least 40 copies of each textbook – thus completing what is known as a “class set”. With Read International programming, teachers have enough resources to borrow batches of textbooks to use for classroom instruction. However, even when there are enough textbooks to take to the classroom, teachers are not leveraging such resources. READ preliminary research suggests that the failure to use available resources is directly linked to teacher’s pedagogical knowledge, skill, and self-efficacy in relation to classroom-based textbook engagement.
A study conducted in Namibiai reaffirms this finding, and indicates that the non-utilisation of textbooks is rarely due to their scarcity but rather to teachers themselves being unskilled and lacking confidence in their use. This is further confirmed in the Tanzanian context by a study conducted by Barrett et. al. (2014) which describes the limited ways in which teachers utilize textbooks. These findings clearly highlight the potential benefits of teacher training that provides teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to engage in productive use of textbooks during classroom instruction.
International research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. Tanzania-specific research shows that, despite the literacy support required by the majority of students, Tanzanian teachers lack literacy- and textbook-related pedagogical skills. International research in regards to teacher professional development also shows that in order for professional development to have a sustained impact on student learning, it must offer continuous, community-based and relevant learning opportunities for teachers.
READ offer 2-3 hours training for allocated library teachers by our experienced field Coordinators. The objective of this training is to make better use of the resources that we have put in the library and to boost the confidence and capacity of teachers in reading strategies that enhance student comprehension. This teaches best-practice library management and how to actively promote reading within the school community. Librarians/teacher recommended to act as librarian also receive a printed instruction manual and other support materials, such as log sheets for book loans.
A four-days teacher training programme on textbook use, ensuring teachers are well-equipped and feel confident to use the textbooks we supply in classroom instruction, to enhance pupils’ educational outcomes.
Alumni Mentoring Programme
Research done by both the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the British Council on university graduate employability found that a factor in the low percentage of employed young graduates in Sub Saharan Africa is employers are generally dissatisfied with the skills and qualities of graduates. Generally, it was found that despite having a degree, students were not being prepared for the work place. According to a report prepared by the IUCEA, after interviewing employers, it was found that 61% of graduates in Tanzania were considered to be “lacking job market skills”.
Additionally, “The Universities, Employability and Inclusive Development” report prepared by The British Council stated “While employers are generally satisfied with the disciplinary knowledge of students, they perceive significant gaps in their IT skills, personal qualities (e.g. reliability) and transferable skills (e.g. team working and problem solving)” Our trainings are expanded and run by our partner organization that specializes in Human Resource Development, career coaching and entrepreneurship skills. At the moment, we run trainings quarterly. Two day trainings will take place once a month and cover a verity of topics, including but not limited to: entrepreneurship, communication, Microsoft Office, project management, work place culture, time management, interview skills and CV writing.
The Organisation in this program intends to empower 50 University students in annual basis, these are the youth who are attached with READ, the intention is to offer a more holistic approach to career development and to ensure our volunteers have the necessary tertiary skills and opportunities to succeed in the work place and also have access to different sources of income generating sources.
READ has set up an internship programme with Corporate Sponsors and other partners. The existing partnership has set up this internship in various sectors within the companies: marketing, sales, finance, legal etc. READ recruit the interns and place them at the appropriate location for their skills.
Our Alumni Mentoring Programme will also be expanded to include formal talks by established career professionals offering career advice and detailing their roads to success to provide our university volunteers with guidance in their field. We would hold these in quarterly basis and recruit speakers from a range of fields but with similar backgrounds to our volunteers whom have been engaged into our library refurbishment program.
- Volunteers will have the soft skills desired by employers which includes but is not limited to: team work communication, problem solving, organizational skills etc. This will be assessed by self-assessments by volunteers on their skills as well as assessments done by corporate employers who take READ interns.
- Volunteers who works with us will gain employment through our Alumni Mentoring Programme. This will be assessed by the percentage of volunteers who report they’re employed and the volunteers who report they were directly employed as a result of our programme/efforts.
Library Top Up Program
Throughout 2014 and 2015, we set up a system to monitor the running of previously refurbished READ libraries. This has resulted in changes to our Library Refurbishment Programme, both in response to the needs of students as well as to ensure improved management of libraries. We have found that after 4 or 5 years’ use, there is some natural wear and tear visible in most libraries e.g. need to strengthen shelves or repaint the walls. The objective of this programme is to support libraries that are already running to improve their selection of books and services to students, and to promote reading even further within schools. This is done in collaboration with the Government through Local Authority Education Offices and the School Management including the PTA’s (Parent Teachers Associations).
Before each Top-Up, we will collect baseline data on habits related to leisure reading and independent studying. The same information will be collected after a year to monitor changes.
The programme consists of
- The provision of additional locally published books,
- a light make-over (e.g. a coat of paint, strengthening of the existing furniture) and
- Additional capacity building:
- for the library teacher/librarian on best practice library management practices.
- For teachers, on how best to support students to use textbooks both inside and out of the classroom
- These activities are implemented over the course of 3 weeks at each school.
As part of the Top-Up programme, we will train 15 to 20 teachers from each school had supported with library before 2016 on how best to use the textbooks for classroom instruction and how to support their students to read textbooks and to ‘read to learn’.