Only three of every 10 pupils in P3 and P4 are able to read and understand a story. And two of every 10 pupils in P6 and P7 cannot read and understand a P2 text, according to a Uwezo report.
A recent survey by Dr. Robinah Kyeyune of the School of Education at Makerere University shows that many teachers use poor methods of teaching how to read.
“The teachers are not taught reading skills so they are unable to transfer them to their pupils and some don’t realise that reading is a taught skill.
Most teachers use the whole word approach instead of the suggested phonetic sound process, where students are taught to interpret sounds and use those to read,” the report says.
These and other many challenges are the focal points Reading Association of Uganda (RAU) seeks to address though different mechanisms. Among the many apparatuses established to address the low levels of literacy is the introduction of book week in schools where children engage in activities such as role playing, debates, dialogue, spelling bees and drama.
The book week which was started four years ago, gives a chance to schools to decide on when to hold the reading festival. For instance some schools hold the book week once in a year while others organise it termly.
Reducing number of failures
Ms Annette Kiberu Mpuuga, the chairperson of RAU believes book week promotes reading culture and improves a child’s self-esteem and expression.
Referring to people who stammer while addressing their subjects, Ms Mpuuga says such instances arise from missed literacy knowledge from childhood.
“Our goal is to reduce the number of pupils who fail exams at Uneb because they can read and interpret questions. We also aim at promoting public speaking so as to radical and informed leaders,” she says.
RAU also takes an initiative to train teachers on how to teach literacy through class work, role playing, music, drama and debates on top of organising seminars for teachers in Central Uganda and in Arua District every holiday. Teachers get equipped with class assessment and literacy skills every holiday.
This has helped teachers acquire knowledge on how to assess children immediately after the lesson unlike the past where teachers could know whether learners had understood after marking books.
RAU has introduced annual literacy festivals where children tell what they want to read about. It serves as a needs assessment for Ugandan authors.
Away from annual literacy festivals, RAU have partnered with Peace Corps an American literacy organisation to introduce the Dear Day (Drop everything and read). It is marked every March 5 where all students and teachers drop everything for 15 minutes and read.