How to Improve Reading in Mali

Catherine

Catherine Kennedy

Basic Education Advisor

Sikasso, Mali

July 21, 2015

 

I am a Basic Education Advisor with Save the Children, and I support several countries. I feel very lucky to have this job – you never do the same thing twice and you are always having new experiences and learning.

I come to Mali twice a year to help move education work forward, such as in terms of quality and reach. We identify priorities together based on issues they have found in their daily work, new priorities from the Ministry of Education, communities, and children, and new approaches and strategies from other countries or from the international education community.

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Cathy surrounded by children & adults in a reading camp

This visit, we are focusing on three things: improving the quality of our community-based reading clubs, using the data we gather on reading to help inform what we do, and identifying ways to make children safer at school.

The reading clubs are run by volunteers to give children the chance to practice and reinforce the reading skills taught to them at school. We hope that by making these clubs fun and child-centered, children will also develop a love of reading which will serve them through life. During my visit, we have visited six camps in three sites. Our basic education team in Sikasso chose one site that was good, one that is on the way to being good, and one that really needs help.

The one that was good was really very good – the volunteer was friendly, fun, and very engaging with the children. He invited their opinions and respected their ideas. It was obvious the children enjoyed the song, story, discussion, and reading time he led them in. It is important for me to see this, because it means that the team and I have the same idea as to what quality is, and we know what we are trying to achieve. The other visits reminded me how different these ideas can be for our volunteers, who have a very limited, often negative, experience of school themselves. As a team afterwards, we brainstormed ways to continue to help the volunteers through strengthening their skills and confidence.

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Cathy surrounded by children in a reading camp

My second objective was to help the team analyze the latest data coming out of our Literacy Project. We saw some exciting trends emerging. For example, children learning in their own language are learning to read faster than those that are taught in French. We were also reminded of how inequitable systems can be, as schools with fully trained, motivated teachers that are on the government payroll are doing much better at teaching reading than schools where the teachers are community members, paid irregularly, and teach in remote locations with poor infrastructure. We discussed the implications around these findings, and how we can focus our energies and resources on those most in need.

The last objective was to make schools safer for children. We held a cross-sectoral workshop with other teams that work in schools, such as in school health and nutrition, sanitation, and staff from the emergency education project in the north of the country. Participants reflected on their own experiences as children, then on what they see now as professionals. We shared different approaches to keeping children safe, such as teacher training in positive discipline and child rights, school-based codes of conduct, and child governments and mothers’ associations, and discussed best practices within each. Then we identified gaps in our current programming and made a plan for the next 18 months to address the issues.

I am now sitting at the airport in Bamako, the capital of Mali, waiting for a delayed flight to Nairobi in Kenya. From there I’ll be going to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a week to support their efforts to help children learn to read more effectively. I feel my time in Mali was well spent – they are a great team, and I love working with them. I wish I didn’t have to travel all night now, but at least the delayed flight enabled me to write my blog!

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Words from a Teacher in a Save the Children Supported School

Faima

Faïmi P. Moscova

Sponsorship Manager

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

July 17, 2015

 

Jadlin is a third grade teacher at a Save the Children-supported school located in Dessalines, and has worked there for over 5 years. He teaches children between the ages of 8 and 10 and lives very close to the school. Growing up, Jadlin liked to work with his classmates pretending to be a teacher. It is something that he truly enjoys. 

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Jadlin with children in front of the school

Before the integration of Save the Children programming, Jadlin admitted he didn’t have sufficient training to manage his classroom or teach certain topics such as geometry or creative writing. The various trainings he has received through Save the Children have brought significant changes to his professional life. According to Jadlin he has learned new teaching methods in disciplinary techniques, how to better manage his class, and how to encourage his pupils’ participation. He now knows it is important to use questioning and group work in the classroom. “I considered myself like I was a dirty dish. Save the Children washes it and fills it up with knowledge.” he added with humility and fulfillment.

Jadlin recognizes he is not the only beneficiary of the organization. Now with help from Save the Children, the school has at its disposal services such as wastebaskets and a book loan program for third to sixth grade students. Parents also are more aware of the activities in the school and of their children’s education. However, children are still affected by flooding in the community during the rainy season and the shortage of potable water. Jadlin hopes that the organization will not only continue to support teachers training but will help the community solve those problems as well. 

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Jadlin

Jadlin is proud to be a teacher at this Save the Children-supported school, and sends a big thank you to the sponsors for their support of Save the Children sponsorship programs. Be on the lookout for updates from Haiti on how Save the Children is helping communities solve other challenges facing children!

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Nung Traditions and Colors

Nhan

Nhan Thi Nguyen

Field Intern

Nam Lu Commune, Vietnam

July 14, 2015

 

After the 2 hour journey by motorbike, I finally reached Nam Lu Commune following an invitation from Hai, the Vice Chairman of the commune. Here the sunshine is brilliant and birds are singing. Today is the traditional festival which is celebrated on the first days of Lunar July. 

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Nung Di women in their traditional clothes

I heard the voices of young girls, mothers, and elderly ladies. They are all in traditional clothes, on their way to the People’s Committee where the festival is celebrated and chatting about the day. As they walk they tease each other and laugh out loud happily. This must be a very special festival to them.

In the festival itself there are a lot of activities, such as art performances, traditional games, and fashion shows. Songs and plays in the Nung language are performed by both young and old people in the commune. Although I don’t understand their language, seeing the villagers of different ages singing along with the performers and swaying while following the rhymes, I know the songs are beautiful and they love them. One of the most interesting parts of the festival was the fashion show, with the performance of young Nung ladies in their traditional clothing. They are not gaudy or colorful but Nung women are still very charming in them.

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Nung Di people in their casual clothes.

Traditional foods are sold in small camps so that people can enjoy the performances and local specialties at the same time. I was so impressed by the seven-color steam sticky rice. Can you believe that Nung people can make all seven colors– from black, yellow, purple to blue, gray, red and orange– from only one ingredient, a kind of local herb? It is called the magenta plant, or chẩm thủ by Nung people. They also make pink chopsticks by dying them in the liquid made from this plants leaves. It’s so incredible. The local people here tell me that in traditional festivals like this one, every family in the commune makes seven-color steam sticky rice and pink chopsticks, with the hope that good luck and happiness will find them in the future.

Does your family have any traditional dishes that you serve at certain times of year and prepare in special ways? Share with us how you celebrate!

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Meet Florence, Nembere Community Volunteer

Florence

Florence

Community Volunteer

Nembere Village, Malawi

July 10, 2015

 

My name is Florence Chokani and I come from Nembere Village. I am a community volunteer who encourages children of my area to go to school. I also teach children in Literacy Boost camps and work as a care giver in a Community-Based Child Care Center.

I started volunteer work with Save the Children in 2010, as a camp leader helping children read and write after school. Then in 2011, I joined Early Childhood Care and Development as a caregiver, where I was responsible for teaching children under the age of six. Additionally, my community selected me to be a Sponsorship Agent, after seeing the passion that I have for my community, for which I helped track enrolled children for their eligibility. This year the community has also entrusted me with another responsibility: representing youth in my area as a Youth Community Based Distribution Agent.

I started volunteering with Save the Children because I wanted to help children in my community. I would love to see an educated community in the future, which will be a breeding ground for development. My dream has always been to work alongside communities in shaping the lives of children. I have been given that opportunity thanks to Save the Children.

I also started volunteering because I wanted to learn new things, for myself as well as for people close to me. For instance, in terms of child development, I have learned how to teach and communicate with children. I have learned how to recognize child problems and abuse and how to counsel children. Above all, I have learned and appreciated how Save the Children’s sponsorship program works and impacts the lives of children, which I gladly share with caregivers and parents.

Volunteering has some added benefits: it keeps me occupied and the community values me a lot because of the support that I provide. I am content knowing that. However, nothing gets me more excited than the children. Whether out of school or in school, they always run to me because they know my presence. Knowing the impact I have on the children makes me feel special – it makes me proud to be a member of the community.

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Kariwang: Favorite Dish of West Sumba

Modjo

Modjo Kale Jami

Program Assistant

Jakarta, Indonesia

July 7, 2015

 

The familiar smell of kariwang, or mashed cassava leaves, permeates the air. The appealing smell combines the cassava leaves with a blend and marination of coconut, basil, and lime. I have been accustomed to this smell all my life. It is my family’s favorite dish. I can hardly resist the smell and temptation while preparing it. 

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The favorite dish of West Sumba, Kariwang

Mashed cassava leaves, or kariwang in the Wanukaka dialect of West Sumba, Indonesia, is a favorite dish of most Sumbanese families. Eating kariwang is at the same time a moment of togetherness. Sumbanese people eat kariwang during family events while trading stories. As a native Sumbanese, I have been eating kariwang all my life and have always taken pleasure in the joy the food and the moment brings. If I was away and felt homesick, I cooked kariwang to bring in a warm feeling that could refresh and heal.

The cooking of kariwang is easy. Most women in Sumbanese families know how to cook this favorite dish. The main ingredient, cassava leaves, can be found in the backyard of most family houses. Spices can also either be obtained from one’s backyard or bought from a nearby traditional market. Onion, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, curcuma, lime, coconut milk, and basil are among the spices used to produce the irresistable smell. 

Cooking

Preparing the favorite dish of West Sumba.

The first step is smashing the cassava leaves. They are pounded with a wooden mortar and pestle together with onion, garlic, salt, and a handful of rice, until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and become juicy.

The next step is to prepare for two types of coconut milk. The first is thicker, having more oil content, and the second is more dilluted, having more water content. Light the fire and get your cooking pot ready, then pour in the dilluted coconut milk and wait for a few minutes until it becomes warm. Next, add the raw mixture of kariwang into the cooking pot and wait until it boils.

When it starts to boil, stir and lower the fire. At the same time, add basil, curcuma, galangal, lemongrass, and lime to the mixture. Thin slices of dried fish can also be used. Then, pour in the thicker coconut milk. Let the ingredients marinate for a while and then keep stiring. When the color of the coconut milk turns grayish, the mixture blends into one and the rich smell permeates the air. The kariwang is then ready to be served.

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Still There Are Many Miles I Have to Go!

Desa

Desalegn Mulugeta

West Showa Impact Area Manager

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

July 2, 2015

 

As a West Showa Impact Area Manager, I have the privilege of visiting different program sites and sharing in the lives of the disadvantaged children there. As part of my routine visits, I traveled to West Welega, Mendi. This visit opened up an opportunity for me to see the school where I myself had completed grades 1 through 8. Since I had not seen the school for 28 years, I decided not to miss the opportunity. 

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Desalegn in his classroom in West Welega, Mendi.

It was with mixed feelings that I entered the compound. Inside one of the classrooms, I was taken back to an event that happened when I was in grade 3. I used to travel 3 hours on foot to reach school every day. One day, I was so tried and was taking a nap while my English teacher was teaching. My teacher noticed and threw a piece of chalk at me and hit my eye. Even though my eye continued tearing for two days, I didn’t tell the situation to my family.

The trees in the compound were planted when I was in grade 3 also. I participated in planting these trees. They have grown tall and are giving their shade to people and animals, in the same way a child today may change his or her nation tomorrow. I always remember the encouraging words of my grandfather, who raised me. He would say, “You shouldn’t be illiterate like me. You have to finish your school and be someone tomorrow.” I recall the ups and downs of my everyday experiences in primary education. Looking after cattle, fetching water from the river, collecting firewood, travelling long distances- these were all challenges during my primary school years. The challenges are still there for children in rural communities. Some even face greater challenges than mine, like the risk of rape and abduction while traveling to school. 

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Desalegn in his school building in West Welega, Mendi.

I noticed that classrooms had not been added and no Early Childhood Care and Development centers (ECCDs) had been created. As a result, young children will have to stay at home until they can be enrolled in grade 1 at age 7. I also saw that the children are still using unprotected water sources, like the river. I imagined how many children are staying home feeling sick from the unprotected water.

I feel down, for the children from my school are still drinking unsafe water and transportation to school still remains a great challenge. But I also feel pride and happiness with Save the Children’s intervention in Mendi. I have a long journey and large commitment ahead of me. I have to help children go to school, create conducive learning environments for them to stay in school, and improve the quality of education here.

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August Floods in Siraha

Sam

Samjhana K.C.

Junior Sponsorship Officer

Siraha District, Nepal

June 29, 2015

 

Over 250 people live in a temporary shelter after floods moved through Siraha District in eastern Nepal. Resulting from the geographical setting and high socioeconomic vulnerabilities, this region in Nepal makes headlines every year because of the recurring floods. For me, the unpleasant truth is that this is a bitter experience that these people have come to expect.

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Flood-affected area in Siraha.

Save the Children was one of the few organizations providing humanitarian support when floods swept through 10 communities of Siraha from August 10th to 13th. The turbulence caused by flooding not only disrupts everyday routines, but could be combined with the lifelong effects of losing homes, livelihoods, and mostly tragically loved ones. The August flood in Siraha alone resulted in 3 casualties. In addition to being potentially life threatening, these floods create waterlogging which disturb basic facilities like transportation and electricity.

We supported the District Disaster Relief Committee in their emergency response efforts. Teams were mobilized first to assess the impact of the flood and then to distribute support to the affected communities. The sponsorship fund was mobilized for emergency relief activities to help children and their families. Two types of immediate relief materials were distributed, non-food relief items such as blankets, utensils, and shelter kits, and ready-to-eat food items. The rescue team facilitated stockpiles of non-food relief items for 197 households in Siraha, touching the lives of 521 children. Save the Children also provided school kits to 127 school-going children affected by the flood. To prevent and contain potential epidemics, a health camp was also organized by the District Health Office in the shelter. The active participation of locals in relief and recovery activities boosted the spirit of our team.

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Flood-displaced families being distributed basic necessities.

Save the Children had initiated its development activities in Siraha as a response to an earthquake in 1988. Since then, our projects have focused on communities in Siraha where locals struggle with very low incomes. Our main focus has been child survival intervention, as a high percentage of women and children were considered to be at risk. In a country where natural disaster induced hazards are a regular phenomenon, Save the Children and our sponsorship team in the field are prepared to support humanitarian crises so that the distressed don’t have to endure their problems alone.

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The Right to Education

Abeer

Abeer Bakeer

Basic Education Assistant

Arab Al Atteyat, Egypt

June 22, 2015

 

My name is Abeer Bakeer. I am the Basic Education Assistant in the sponsorship program, where every day I am confronted by parents who lack basic knowledge of health, hygiene, and maybe cannot read, as well as poorly equipped schools and teachers. Despite all this children still exhibit a great desire to improve themselves.

Library

Abeer with a group children at the school library

One memorable moment which illustrates this occurred when I was in Arab Al Atteyat, a culturally Bedouin village far from many basic services, monitoring some educational activities there. A parent came to take his child home from school for an unknown reason. The child passionately refused because he wanted to remain to solve a specific math problem he was working on!

When I graduated, I volunteered with several community projects that serve marginalized people. I really enjoyed the social aspect of the work. When a permanent position became available with Save the Children, I jumped at the chance. I have worked in this role for one year now, where I spend five days weekly serving needy children.

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Abeer with a group children at school

Over the past seven years, Save the Children in Egypt has worked with the Ministry of Education, our local partners, schools, teachers, and children. We work closely with teachers on classroom management techniques, lesson planning, and supporting children to be leaders. When children cannot read, we help them to learn. And they do.

The thing I am most proud of is how children change, changes I see. Thank you, sponsors, for helping to support our work.

How do you think having to fight for your right to an education could affect a young child’s attitude towards learning? Do you think the challenges school age children face in impoverished communities to attend school makes their desire to learn stronger?

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By Taking Care of My Teeth, I Take Care of My Health

Robin

Robin Quiroga Calderon

Sponsorship Program Implementation Facilitator

Cochabamba, Bolivia

May 18, 2015

 

Hello Friends. I am Robin Quiroga and I am the Sponsorship Program Implementation Facilitator here in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I want to share with you my experience working with the sponsorship program of School Health and Nutrition in one of our schools.

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Juan David, Jhoel Alex & Yimer showing their dental hygiene kits

First, Save the Children provided children with dental hygiene kits, comprised of toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a water cup. We also joined with parents in requesting the help of the Faculty of Dentistry, from the University of San Simon, to teach children proper dental hygiene.

This effort turned into a "Dental Hygiene Campaign" during which 50 students from the Faculty of Dentistry helped in training children from pre-school up to sixth grade on dental hygiene, brushing techniques, prevention, and dental care. They did this using participatory and hands-on methodologies, such as theater sketches, puppet shows, paintings, and games. Additionally, children practiced brushing their teeth in their classrooms, using their new dental hygiene kits. Faculty of Dentistry students even performed teeth cleanings, with fluoride, in order to prevent cavities.

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Dentistry students Anahi and Ronaldino explaining toothbrusing techniques

All in all, this was a fun day for children who were excited to learn how to care for their teeth. Some had never visited the dentist and for them, this was an extra special experience.

School teachers were very happy and grateful to Save the Children and the students of the University of San Simon for working together to improve dental hygiene for so many children. This effort reminded me, once again, of the importance of coordinating our activities with parents and other partners, and of the successes we can achieve by doing so!

How old were you when you learned proper brushing techniques? Who taught you? Consider how difficult keeping your mouth feeling clean and healthy must be if your family could not afford a toothbrush! In honor of the generosity and time of the University of San Simon dentistry students, we ask you to consider an extra special donation to support more clean mouths and happy children!

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Interactive Hygiene, Water Safety, and Sanitation Classes for the Children of Meherpur Sadar

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Dr. Asadur Rahman

Senior Manager, School Health Nutrition

Meherpur, Bangladesh

May 4, 2015

Earlier this year I traveled to Meherpur, accompanied by other senior specialists and managers of School Health Nutrition. The purpose of our travel was to observe our new Community Based Health Education sessions, and to visit some primary schools in Meherpur Sadar and the Gangni sub-districts.

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Students of Gondhorajpur at the Handwashing Corner

We first met with Head Teachers and School Management Committee members. We observed classroom-based health education sessions and demonstrations of hand washing at the hand washing corner in the schools. The children participated in the health education class very attentively and enthusiastically. To increase attendance rates through ensuring good health, additional teacher-led health education sessions are being implemented at primary schools according to individual class routine, along with weekly sessions included in physical education for all grades.

To answer the need for more education sessions on water, sanitation, and hygiene on a community level, the sponsorship program has started a new Community Based Health Education (CBHE) initiative in the Sadar sub-district in Meherpur. The objective of this new initiative is to increase the knowledge and skill of children ages 5 through 12 regarding water, sanitation, and hygiene through community based education sessions. Groups consist of 12 to 15 primary school age children, and are facilitated by 2 of the older students, 10 to 12 years old, from the community. The CBHE session we participated in was very enjoyable and interactive. The facilitators always aim to include innovative methods in each session.

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Facilitator Conducting Sanitation and Hygiene Session

How do you think we can help emphasize the importance of water safety, sanitation, and hygiene to primary school age children? Sponsorship program staff always aim to make learning fun, please share your ideas with us!

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