New Hope for Ugandan Children

The Ministry of Education and Sports’ (MoES’) early grade reading (EGR) program, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)–funded Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA) promotes the reading ability of Ugandan learners and is part of the foundation for children’s success and retention in schools. LARA works collaboratively with the MoES to support strategic planning, strengthen policies, and implement EGR reading in Ugandan schools, including Kisanabataka Primary in Lwengo District.

In November 2019, the MoES’ Permanent Secretary, Kakooza Alex, also included 15 other MoES staff and journalists visited Kisanabataka Primary School.  The Permanent Secretary undertakes routine school monitoring trip to check on the status of facilities, such as classrooms and furniture, provided under the Global Partnership of Education, Uganda Teachers and School Effectiveness Project, and the National EGR program supported under the USAID/Uganda Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity.

Mr. Kakooza Alex, MoES Permanent Secretary (third from left) at Kisanabataka Primary School. Credit: Hannah Tusabe, RTi International

When the Permanent Secretary entered the Primary 3 class, the teacher was in the middle of teaching an EGR lesson. The Permanent Secretary saw that the students were seated in groups, instead of the typical rows, and asked the teacher why the class was structured in this way.

The teacher replied, “Sitting in groups encourages collaborative learning in class and, besides, learners have different abilities. When they are in groups, they will support each other more than when they are seated individually.” He further explained that sitting in groups enables learners to share materials during pair/group work.

Students sit in groups during the EGR lesson. Credit: Hannah Tusabe, RTI International

The Permanent Secretary asked two learners to read a passage from the English and local language readers. Namigadde and Namayanja read fluently the Luganda and English texts, respectively.

The USAID supported EGR program has provided the foundation for children’s literacy in Kisanabataka Primary School. Literacy is the basis for children’s ability to read, write, and learn continuously. The ability to read improves student performance in other subjects across the curriculum and enables progress to upper primary grades. Before the EGR program was rolled out to Kisanabataka Primary School, the school environment was not conducive to successful learning. For example, there were no classroom displays, learners sat in rows, teachers did not have teacher’s guides to help them teach literacy lessons, and learners did not have pupil books. All of these issues together meant that the learners could not read grade-level texts in either the local language or English. Today, the students in Kisanabataka Primary School are learning to read fluently and with comprehension in their local language and English because their teachers are trained in the EGR methodology and they are using books provided through the support of USAID.

The Permanent Secretary stated, “The future plan is to rollout EGR to all primary schools, including private schools, in the country to support the thematic curriculum and improve achievement levels in literacy and numeracy in lower primary grades and the transition class.”.

Emerging reader, Primary student Namigadde. Credit: Hannah Tusabe, RTI International Emerging reader, Primary student Namayanja. Credit: Hannah Tusabe, RTI International