Creating a reading-centered system

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Students in a classroom of a primary school in Nkhotakota, Malawi. Photo: © Dietmar Temps/Shutterstock
Students in a classroom of a primary school in Nkhotakota, Malawi. Photo: © Dietmar Temps/Shutterstock

In an ideal situation a child by the age of 10 should at least be able to read and write. This is not the case in most African countries especially Malawi. When I was at the age of 12, I was unable to read and write nor spell my own name, and because of this, communication became harder by the day. Every time I would stand to read a book before the whole class, I would get mocked and laughed at. As a result I spent most of my time at school in isolation.

No one should have to experience the same shame and embarrassment I constantly felt as a child due to my incapacity/incapability to read and write well. If I became the minister of education in my country, I would see to it that every child by the age of 10 is able to read and write well. I would first begin by building numerous reading centers across the country, 1 or 2 in each and every community. One of the challenges that Malawians face is that we have very little access to books or educational material and this because in there is only one public library in each city.  To add on, only 20% of our population visits these public libraries because they are far and most people cannot afford the transport costs.

"When I was at the age of 12, I was unable to read and write nor spell my own name, and because of this, communication became harder by the day." 

Another thing I would instill would be the banning of local makeshift cinemas or illegal moving screening centers. These centers draw a large audience of young school children and a lot of Malawian children, especially in rural areas, spend an outrageous amount of time watching films and others as a result end up ditching classes. I would propose that these cinemas be replaced with education centers were the children can get extra help from tutors and access to books even after school hours.

We have also seen a great influx in the number of children with learning challenges in Malawi. The most common disorder being dyslexia, and yet very little is done to help such children. Malawian public schools have very little or no resources that cater to the specific needs of neuro-diverse children.  Such special education is only found in expensive private schools yet 75% of our population is poor. This is something that I would be happy to repair as the minister of education. I would introduce resources like listening to taped teachings for dyslexic students and using shapes to help the child process information. Lastly I would implement extra classes for neuro-diverse students to encourage them and help them to learn how to read and write better.

"Children are the Future and hope of our nation, and thus it is important that by the age of 10 they are able to read and write."

To conclude, it really hurts me to see young children drop out of school because of learning difficulties. Being able to read allows people to become creative thinkers, which is essential in developing our nation. Children are the Future and hope of our nation, and thus it is important that by the age of 10 they are able to read and write. 

This post is one of the three winning entries of the second World Bank Group and Financial Times Blog Writing Competition. 

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Grace Erika Meki Jumah

Student, Joyce Banda Foundation Secondary School in Malawi

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