A Way Out of Illiteracy


After a survey found that over 40% of school children in a district of Ethiopia couldn't read, World Vision piloted a reading camps program. Dawit, along with other students, practices his reading.

After a survey found that more than 40% of school children in a district of Ethiopia couldn't read, World Vision piloted a reading camps program. Read how these camps are transforming literacy and the lives of children in Ethiopia, and our plans for the future!

According to a reading skill assessment conducted by World Vision and Save the Children, more than 40 percent of primary school children in Wonchi, Ethiopia are unable to read or identify between letters, consonants, and vowels.

4th-grader Dawit confirms: “I only knew the A, B, C, but could not read texts. I did not know the difference between consonants and vowels. When I took text exams, I used to answer by guess.”

Teacher Elfinesh Hailu admits that the students have difficulties with reading.

“Our children complete grade 4 without having enough skill of reading. This is shame for me as a teacher. I believe that our child unfriendly teaching methodology, inability of preparing teaching aids from locally available materials, lack of skill of managing large classroom size are the major contributors our students’ weak reading skill performance,” she explains.

In collaboration with Save the Children and the local government educational office, World Vision piloted a literacy boost project at the Wonchi and Hidabu Abote communities and begun implementing the project in March 2012. The project is aimed at increasing the percentages of children who are able to read at functional levels by age 11.

World Vision trained 180 volunteer reading camp leaders and community facilitators along with 130 teachers and supervisors from eight intervention schools with relevant reading skills at Wonchi. Through reading camp facilitators, World Vision provided awareness creation training to 2,803 parents.

So far, 49 child-friendly reading centers have opened in Wonchi District across 60 villages. Children meet on weekends to practice reading skills at each camp with the help of volunteer leaders. Each reading camp has its own book banks where students can access reading materials.

Chitu, about 123 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, is one of the 49 reading camps. Close to 40 children attend. The walls of the camp are filled with eye-catching print materials. Some of the letters are associated with familiar animal names, some with cultural items, and others with local materials to help children identify them.

The friendly reading materials, informal interactions, and sound teaching methodology have incredibly improved children’s reading skills.

“This reading camp has improved my reading skill remarkably. I can now identify between letters and read stories. Previously, my mum had to knock the doors of our neighbors to ask them to read text of any kind, but today I can do the reading for her,” 11-year-old Shewaye happily explains.

Dawit is also excited to be part of the reading camp.

“The way we learn at this reading camp has entirely changed our [reading]. We learn everything in fun. We learn through games, story times, songs, and activities. Once we learn this way, we will not forget. I have now reached from the point of not identifying a single letter to reading a text. I once was answering text exams by guessing, but now I can read and respond accordingly,” Dawit proudly explains.

Abinet Tesfaye volunteers at the reading camp in Chitu.

“As I continued helping them, I saw amazing improvements. Now I feel proud on being part of this great job,” he says.

This literacy boost pilot program has been successfully implemented in Wonchi and Hidabu Abote. World Vision trained 200 teachers from 15 intervention schools as well as 322 volunteer reading camp leaders and community facilitators, established 91 reading camps, and distributed 17,550 books to reading camps and intervention schools. In doing so, the program has been able to equip 8,350 children with reading skills.

Following its success, the reading camp demand is very high. World Vision is now planning to scale up the literacy boost projects in 25 communities in Oromia region, three in Amhara region, and four in Tigray region and Dollo Ado refugee response program through sponsorship education programs.

By Aklilu Kassaye
(2013 Aklilu Kassaye/World Vision)

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