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Workshop Focuses on Leveraging Technology to Scale Early Grade Reading in Africa

Aristarick Lyimo, Training and Curriculum Development Specialist for Reading within Reach, represented REACH at a recent workshop organized by All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development. The workshop took place May 9-11 in Pretoria, South Africa. Attendees included Africa USAID Missions and representatives of Ministries of Education in Africa

The workshop had two key purposes:

  • to explore systems-level challenges and promising technology-leveraged solutions to support early grade reading in low-resource educational environments; and
  • to explore the potential for innovations to be expanded, replicated and/or scaled in traditional and non-traditional educational settings in Africa

Each day of the workshop focused on a specific theme. Sessions opened with vignettes by country representatives or interviews with key stakeholders sharing their experiences on how technology has been used in their countries or organizations to maximize children learning. This was followed by whole-group presentations highlighting broad issues. At the closing plenary session, representatives of each small group shared recommendations from their discussions.

Day 1, Theme One: Children need access to engaging, appropriate books in local languages. This theme was covered in two separate sessions focused on:

  • system strengthening for content creation, dissemination and tracking to ensure all children have materials that enable them to read to learn; and
  • supporting teacher and community engagement to improve children’s reading gains

Day 2, Theme Two: We need to accelerate equity and access to literacy. This theme was explored using two sessions focused on:

  • leveraging assistive technology for children with disabilities; and
  • scaling benchmarks for technology for reading

Day 3, Theme Three: We need to expand support to children on their literacy journey. This theme was explored in one session focused on utilizing social behavior change for literacy.

Some recommendations shared at the plenary included:

  • assuring availability of local language reading materials
  • implementing partners taking more responsibilities in tracking material distribution to schools
  • extending track and trace not only to distribution but also to use of materials
  • removing copyright restrictions and encouraging open licensing
  • establishing clear policies and guidelines for approving materials
  • adding high-quality content to existing online content
  • implementing low-cost track and trace of materials from warehouse to schools
  • providing improved teacher recognition
  • providing assistive technology for learners with different learning impairments

Attendees from several countries showed high interest in disseminating REACH/GRN’s Enabling Writers (EW) Workshop Program and SIL LEAD’s Bloom software in their own countries. EW is funded by the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development partners—USAID, World Vision and the Australian government. The REACH/GRN team is also discussing with several international organizations support and partnership towards building a community of “spot reviewers” of decodable and leveled books in languages of Africa and Asia for the Global Digital Library. To learn more about Enabling Writers and REACH/GRN’s engagement in supporting book reviews for the Global Digital Library, please contact Aristarick Lyimo via Watch upcoming issues of the GRN newsletter for further details as they become available.