Inspires literacy in Southern Africa
Zambia and Namibia struggle with high numbers of illiteracy in the population." I hope that through our training we can be human resources on literacy issues," says teacher and graduated student Ireen Monga.
"Literacy is not merely about having basic reading and writing skills. It is just as important whether the pupils’ skills are good enough to pursue their goals in the educational system. There has been a serious need for trained personnel in this field," explains the Norwegian project coordinator, Anne Marit Vesteraas Danbolt from Hedmark University College.
In a large study on the educational systems in South-East Africa from 2004, Namibia and Zambia are ranked among the bottom of the countries.
After primary school, 16.9 % of the students achieved the minimum level of reading skills in Namibia. Only 6.7 % achieved the desired level to be able to continue their education. The countries also struggle with high numbers of drop-outs during primary education.
The Master’s Programme in Education, Literacy and Learning through the Norad-sponsored NOMA programme aims to tackle these issues. It is the first of its kind in Namibia and Zambia, and targets teachers in upper secondary schools.
Students have successfully graduated from the first classes. Coordinators, lecturers and some of the graduated students recently met at a workshop in Zambia to discuss supervision of master students and sustainability of the programme.
Jacolynn Anderson van Wyyk and Ireen Monga are graduates from the University of Namibia and the University of Zambia. Both are teachers in upper secondary school. Ireen Monga is working as an English teacher for grades 8 to 12.
"As a teacher, my challenge has always been how I can make my pupils more literate. In my opinion, the programme has given me a much broader perspective on literacy. It has given me the ability to have a critical perspective on the educational system, and look for ways of improvement. I have also realized that parents can contribute to the literacy development in their children," she says.
Never been sponsored before
The Master's Programme in Education, Literacy and Learning
Partner institutions are Hedmark University College (Norway), University of Zambia and University of Namibia
The Master’s programme has a wide perspective on literacy. It aims at increasing and sustaining literacy levels of pupils in schools, and build competence at university level in the two countries
The programme focuses on literacy in both English and the mother tongues
The project period is from 2007-2013
Around 70 students have so far participated in the projects. 45 of them have received scholarships.
Students have come from Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi
The students must work as teachers before they can be accepted in the programme, which often requires a leave of absence from their jobs. Many of them receive scholarships to be able to focus on their studies.
Jacolynn van Wyyk didn’t get a leave off work to do her Master’s, but decided to study anyway.
"I had to resign my job to get my degree. The scholarship has therefore meant a lot to me, since I would not have been able to support myself through the studies without it. It has motivated me to work hard," she explains.
Teachers as resources on literacy
All the students who have finished the Master’s Programme have managed to get jobs or get promoted in their careers. Many of the teachers end up working in upper secondary schools, and some go to administrative and policy level positions to develop teacher’s education in their countries.
The programme is already integrated among the regular programmes at the universities in Namibia and Zambia, and will continue when the NOMA project period comes to an end.
"We hope to increase the number of women with Master’s degrees and PhDs who work in the educational systems, also at policy level," says Anne Marit Vesteraas Danbolt, and adds that hopefully, the Master’s will have a great impact on literacy in both countries.
In the near future the students will hopefully be resources to educate other teachers in also primary education on literacy issues in the south. The students themselves are eager to let other teachers benefit from what they have learned.
"I hope that we can contribute to the improvement of education in our countries. Many small steps will bring us in the right direction," says Ireen Monga.