With an equal opportunity to learn, UNICEF helps young learners of Zambia catch up
A flagship learning program helps thousands of children with varying needs meet at the same literacy level as their peers
In July 2020, UNICEF with support from the Hempel Foundation and in coordination with the Government of Zambia, launched a remedial learning program – Catch Up – in the province of Luapula. The program focused on training the primary grade teachers on remedial teaching methodology that would help young learners develop improved comprehension skills and catch up with their peers on the journey of learning, early on.
“I do not have to rush through my lessons anymore as now I ensure that all the learners in my class are given time and attended to with a step-by-step method, for their understanding and complete comprehension.”
Emeldah is one of the 782 teachers trained on the flagship learning programme - Catch Up. In December 2020, with training support from the Hempel foundation and technical support from ZESSTA, VVOB, TaRL, USAID and LEGO foundation, UNICEF trained teachers from 259 primary schools on the programme, reaching and advancing learning skills for more than 40,000 young learners in Luapula province of Zambia. The programme equips teachers with literacy and numeracy skills, on approaches to identify learners with needs, and delivering lessons to meet the needs of the learner according to their capacity.
“Being a teacher, I have benefited tremendously from the training and the Catch Up Programme. I can now easily see the progress that learners are making every day. Seeing them get promoted to another level quickly, inspires me to use new ways of teaching and delivering the lessons. I see instant results especially in numeracy, and progress in spelling and pronunciation, for instance earlier children could not spell the number seven but now they are able to spell as well as read it correctly,” adds Emeldah.
Acknowledging the success of the programme in schools of Luapula province, the Government of Zambia adapted the model and is now upscaling the programme to eight out of ten provinces of the country – hence reaching thousands of children and helping them learn and be promoted to next levels.
“The programme has proven to be tremendously effective, with learners progressing from beginner level literacy to paragraph and story. At UNICEF, our goal in Education is that no learner is left behind and we have no time to wait. We must expand and ensure that the most vulnerable, marginalized and those with special need are included and streamlined into the education system with equal and equitable opportunities.”
The Catch Up programme is one of its kind, as it not only focuses on enhancing the learners skill set, but also provides opportunities for the teachers to upgrade their skills, seek guidance and bridge the gaps in the system. Every teacher under the Catch Up programme is assigned a mentor, who monitors the progress, and offers continued support for effective imparting of the lessons and implementation of the programme. The mentor visits the teacher every month, which gives them an opportunity to exchange updates on progress, discuss challenges, and brainstorm new ideas.
Reflecting on her experience, Emeldah shares, “due to an intensive monitoring by the school mentor and the monitoring team, I am able to receive guidance on how to choose matching activities that blend phonics with other approaches. Their positive feedback encourages me to get better at coming up with skills and activities making teaching effective on my end and comprehension on the learner’s end.”