Our work with READ for Life focuses mostly on one single challenge: the quality of teaching reading and writing. To help understand the context of where this fits into the bigger picture, here’s a list of many educational challenges in a recent USAID report looking at low-income countries in general, but it could easily be words painted about the Ugandan education system:
Likewise, the teaching and learning contexts in many low income countries also present challenges. Schools are frequently under-resourced (e.g. lack of electricity, water, furniture, books, chalk, paper and even buildings); teachers are generally untrained or undertrained in effective teaching methods and in the teaching of literacy specifically; schools are often remote and hard to reach; classrooms are often overcrowded (especially in the early grades); and incentive systems to motivate teachers and other educators to do their work, to make extra efforts, and in some cases to show up for work, are either weak or nonexistent. Student and teacher absenteeism is high. Curricula are often overcrowded with content and facts to be memorized and skills are not emphasized; national policies on textbooks and readers often impede the selection or development of appropriate materials. Conflict and crisis situations also impinge on students’ socio-emotional health, executive functioning, levels of stress and trauma and ability to concentrate and learn in school. School fees or the opportunity costs of schooling are often too high for low income parents; corruption saps the resources of the educational system; the culture of reading in schools and communities is often weak or nonexistent; and children often face challenging home environments where parents do not have the time, resources or expertise to devote to ensuring school attendance, homework completion, reading in the home or other appropriate reading support activities; likewise, communities underestimate the contribution they can make to children’s attainment of literacy because so many members are illiterate (Brombacher et al., 2012; Collins & Messaoud-Galusi, 2012; Gove and Cvelich, 2011; Harber, 2014; Rugh, 2012; UNICEF and UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2014; UNESCO Policy Paper 23, 2016; Verger, Novella, & Altinyelken, 2012).