Cissy Namulemeri, a 14-year-old Primary Seven pupil of Mbuya C.O.U Primary School, is emotional as she recalls the days when she was stigmatised by her menstruation period. Namulemeri says she would even fear to walk about in class and Cissy Namulemeri, a 14-year-old Primary Seven pupil of school during those painful three days. But this was before she started reading Newspapers in Education (NiE), a weekly pullout in the Daily Monitor published every Monday.
“Through NiE, I learnt to feel free and behave normally during menstruation. Most importantly, I learnt how to keep myself clean. Many girls my age do not know how to keep clean during their period. Those who menstruate for the first time even fear to tell their parents or teachers. If they read NiE and got lessons about menstruation, all this would end,” she says.
Launched in 2007 by Daily Monitor under the umbrella of the World Association of Newspapers championed by newspapers around the world, NiE is a young reader development programme aimed at creating a reading culture in pupils by providing affordable reading materials. It targets primary and secondary school going children from poor schools in all districts of Uganda.
And true to its objective, NiE has improved reading culture and eased teaching and learning of the English language in benefitting schools. As Matrice Achola, the NiE patron of Mbuya C.O.U Primary School, says, students’ judgement and interpretation of a story written in English has greatly improved.
“Majority of our pupils now have enriched vocabulary and spellings. They are able to read a newspaper article and explain what it is about. As teachers, we are happy that they have known at least most of the things around them because this publication covers issues ranging from health, education, energy, environment, finances and infrastructure, among others,” Achola says.
Joram Kakembo, a 13-year-old Primary Seven pupil of Kiswa Primary School, says the fun activities in NiE have helped him improve his spelling ability.
“My reading culture and spellings were poor but I have greatly improved. I enjoy solving puzzles because they make me think deeply. I urge other pupils to embrace NiE and read newspapers to improve their reading skills,” he says.
So far so good
Since the project kicked off in 2007, more than 1,000,000 primary school-going children have benefited and estimated 1,000,000 have been reached.
More than 1,000 schools have enrolled and more than 5,000 teachers been trained on how to use the newspaper as a teaching tool in the classroom. Currently, the Daily Monitor NiE programme runs in more than 500 primary schools in all regions of Uganda.
Joshua Busiinge, the project supervisor at Daily Monitor, says the project aims at improving the wellbeing of children through literacy and life skills as well as strengthening administrative support for early grade reading in selected primary and secondary schools.
“Our expected outcomes are 50 per cent increase in capacity to read among children, teachers and parents. We ensure that 70 per cent of every NiE issue is consistent with the national curriculum,” Busiinge says.
He adds that NiE will not just benefit pupils but also teachers by training and mentoring them on how to use the newspapers as a learning tool in the classroom. Schools do not have to worry about availability of newspapers because NiE runs for eight weeks every term making it 24 times a year.
Getting the newspapers
Busiinge explains that newspapers are supplied to the benefitting poor and rural schools every Monday during the term.
Through partnership, Daily Monitor delivers the newspapers free of charge to schools every Monday and provides a project (themes) based on weekly reading activities to the learners. The structure of the activities, Busiinge notes, guarantees participation and encourages individual input of the pupils.
Busiinge reveals that some schools lack textbooks and those who have a few out-dated ones risk equipping learners with expired content. “The pullout comes with fresh ideas that help learners understand the current trends. Schools can, therefore, utilise this project to keep their learners up to date,” he says.
Monitoring the project
According to Busiinge, the Daily Monitor team together with the sponsor team travel to the schools to find out how the programme is progressing, and assess the impact. These visits are also an opportunity for sponsors to communicate their messages.
The visits to the schools are meant to collect feedback on the performance of the pupils that term. The assessment is done by the team alongside the teacher ambassadors.
“At the end of each term the sponsors are given a report on what transpired during the term coupled with the report of success stories,” Busiinge says.