In early February, more than 400 pupils and community members of rural North Kamagambo, Kenya, gathered at Kadianga Primary School for the launch of Lwala Community Alliance’s eReader pilot project. Among them was Fred Ochieng Ouko, a 12-year-old boy in Class 6 at Kadianga Primary.
Fred is the sixth born in a family of nine children—three boys and six girls. Three of Fred’s sisters are married and none of his siblings have attended high school. Fred’s parents cannot afford to buy him his own textbooks, so he shared course books with two other students in his class. The three classmates would rotate who would take the course books home after school, requiring the other two to copy down questions in order to complete the homework. Kadianga Primary did not have story books for the pupils to read at school. In fact, besides their course books, the only other books in the classroom were four bibles, which they would share during pastoral lessons.
Fred’s circumstances are representative of those of many children his age who live in Lwala Community Alliance’s rural catchment area. According to a survey conducted among Class 6 students in January 2016, 61% of pupils report having access to only 5-10 books at school, and 82% of pupils report having access to 10 or less books at home. Yet despite the low availability of books, the surveyed pupils express strong interest in reading, with 93% reporting they would like to have more books to read at school and/or at home.
Given this backdrop, Lwala Community Alliance has partnered with Worldreader to launch an eReader pilot project. Donated by the Klintworth Family Foundation and generously provided by Worldreader, the 150 eReaders—each with 200 books—being used in the pilot are changing the face of learning in the community.
Prior to the launch of the eReader pilot, Lwala Community Alliance’s education initiatives were exclusively extracurricular, functioning to supplement regular school instruction. The pilot marks to first time Lwala Community Alliance is working with teachers to enhance learning in the classroom. Run by members of Lwala Community Alliance’s Education team, the eReader pilot project leverages an existing relationship with Class 6 teachers and pupils from the in-school mentoring program. Education team member Alfred Odhiambo, himself a former teacher at Lwala Primary School, is the lead implementer of the pilot. After joining the Lwala Community Alliance staff in October, Alfred quickly began working with schools to prepare for the new project. With the support of a Worldreader staff member, he trained teachers on how to use the eReaders and incorporate the devices into their classroom lessons.
Designed as a small-scale comparative study, the eReader pilot is also breaking new ground for Lwala Community Alliance’s Monitoring and Evaluation team. Based on the strength of a written proposal, Lwala Community Alliance selected six among the 13 area primary schools to participate in the pilot. These six schools were then paired according to achievement (low, middle, and high), and then one school from each pair was assigned to either the treatment or control group. The three schools in the treatment group prepared to receive eReaders, while the three control schools prepared for lessons as usual.
At the start of the 2016 school year in January, the Education team delivered a baseline evaluation to Class 6 pupils in all six treatment and control schools. The baseline evaluation was designed to assess pupils’ reading literacy based on three measures—reading individual words without context, reading a short passage, and answering comprehension questions—with each measure tested in both Kiswahili and English. The evaluation also collected pupils’ demographic information, reading behaviors, attitudes towards reading, and access to educational resources. The evaluation will be conducted again at the end of the school year to assess, using a difference-in-differences methodology, changes is literacy levels among pupils in the control and treatment schools, as well as any changes in pupils’ reading behaviors and attitudes.
Thanks to the Klintworth Family Foundation, Worldreader, and Lwala Community Alliance, Fred now has his own eReader with 200 books to use both at school and at home. Fred can carry the eReader home with him in the evening, which makes completing his homework a much easier task and allows him to share the device with his siblings so they too can develop a love for reading. Lwala Community Alliance believes the new eReader project can help pupils like Fred not only become better readers, but also improve overall school performance and foster a culture of reading and learning in North Kamagambo.
Monitoring and Evaluation Fellow
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