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Friday, January 25, 2008

Teachers nurture poor reading

A research study on literacy practices in primary schools in Uganda shows that lack of non-text reading materials is partly responsible for the poor reading culture in the country.
The study also holds teachers responsible, for refusing to allow pupils borrow and take home textbooks. The research blames poverty and ignorance in homes for increasing the poor reading pattern.
Inadequacy of local language learning material is also cited as one of the major barriers to the poor reading culture. Multi-lingual communities like Kibaale are the most affected. Other barriers to reading in majority of children in rural areas include an acute shortage of trained teachers to teach in the local language.
These findings were revealed by stakeholders and educators in a one day dissemination workshop at Hotel Africana- Kampala. This was after a team of five researchers conducted a study on, Literacy practices in primary schools in Uganda: Lessons for future interventions.
According to Nansozi K. Muwanga(Ph.D) lecturer and Principle Investigator, the overall objective of the study was to identify good and poor literacy practices in primary schools and then recommend useful designs for future interventions to improve these policies and practices.
The research study sponsored by Makerere University and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, sampled 43 primary schools in four districts; Kalangala (central), Kibaale (western), Kampala (metropolitan), and Iganga (Eastern Uganda). Accordingly, 43 head teachers, 334 parents, and 150 teachers were interviewed and survey questionnaires were answered by 681 pupils.
Principle findings revealed that there is laxity of teachers when it comes to preparing work schemes. Of the schools reached, 37 head teachers who claimed to have written rules to govern the flow of reading materials couldn't produce the said work schemes.
It was discovered that pupils are not induced into the practice of reading at an early age of their primary education because most libraries especially in rural schools do not provide reading materials for P1 to P4 pupils. The research revealed that in some schools, poor pupils are denied access to reading materials for fear that they may lose the books and yet cannot replace them.
The other finding was that many text books remain in stores of most schools, a few are borrowed, most are lost and misplaced. According to the study, teachers themselves have lost a culture of reading and cannot therefore encourage their pupils to read.
On a brighter side the research revealed that in most urban and international schools, pupils read daily newspapers like Daily Monitor and New Vision. However their village counterparts cannot access the newspapers. The only village schools that could access newspapers were the government aided ones which are supplied with free pull-outs such as Young Talk, Tree Talk and Straight Talk. This meant that pupils in urban schools are exposed to early reading and because they read daily, they learn the language of instruction quickly and efficiently.
The reaserch also found out that, there is minimal teaching in rural schools compared to urban schools. Children study under trees. In fact in one of the rural schools, a P4 pupil failed to spell 'boy' and misspelt it as 'boyi.' The plight of rural schools is horrendus to the extent of not having drama, story telling or child to child lessons which would ignite warmth among pupils and support the process of inquiry.
Also, the large size of classes in most poor rural schools makes it difficult for teachers to appropriately teach reading. The big numbers came with the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 that saw the rise in enrollment, from 2.7million children in 8,000 schools in 1996 to 7.592.293 in 13,300 schools in 2003.
The research says this has put a strain on the education system including supply of teachers and text book provision. As a result, majority of pupils read only prescribed text books when they have them in order to pass examinations. But the Ministry Of Education and Sports provides text books and instructional materials which should be given to the learners for their active use at schools and at home for reference.
Sadly, of the schools visited, 78% said they had children with reading related impairments like short and long sightedness, blindness and mental retardation.
The research recommended that activities for enhancing literacy should take pupils into consideration and must be balanced between writing, debating, speech, academic performance and reading for pleasure.
The research, also recommended that schools must ensure pupil's access to non-text book reading materials coupled with practices that promote desirable reading habits to improve literacy. Pupils should be encouraged to write their own stories, draw charts which are pinned in class rooms, and also make flash cards using locally made materials. Parents should also step in to promote reading habits in their children; at regional and district level. Parents should also collaborate with national and the local community on literacy development issues.
The research also reccomended that training and monitoring of teachers is key to development and promotion of reading as is the same when local language teachers and readers are trained.
Finally, the research said there is need for public/private partnership dialogue and exchange on how to improve reading in school especially that libraries should be made fantastic places for pupils to be interested in reading.
The final detailed report of the committe will be released on January 31, 2004.
Published in Daily Monitor, December 20, 2004