Mzimba teachers bash National Reading Programme

Primary school teachers in Mzimba have bashed National Reading Programme (NRP), established in 2016 to promote reading among learners in junior classes, saying it has done more harm than good to leaners.

Learners reading the books

Speaking in an interview with a teacher from St Peters Primary School in Mzuzu, Rose Mvula said she resorted to using old teaching standards after noting that her leaners are not making strides with NRP.

“Come to standard six and pick a child randomly to read for you,you will be shocked to see that they don’t know anything. They can’t read for you. Such scenarios were few before NRP,”

As a result some of us are not using their [NRP] books. We use them when officials come for inspections. When gone, we settle forold teaching ways,”she said.

Mvula said the programme was not ideal for a country such as Malawi, with high teacher pupil ratio.

“NRP requires adequate time for teacher learner interaction. The recommended standard is 1 teacher against 20 leaners. That is not the case with us as teacher pupil ration can reach up to 1: 150,” she said.

Mvula bemoaned high workload in implementation of the program against what she said peanut salaries, arguing there is no way teachers could work hard.

“They require us to write a lot of reports. As a result we just cheat in our reporting and they feel happy that things are working on the ground,” she said.

Mvula said implementation of the program was rushed at, blaming officials for sidelining teachers during research stage.

Another teacher at Mphalapala Primary School, at Kabuwa in Mzimba, Wilford Phiri said the school has five teachers to cater for standards one to eight.

“At my school we are only 5 teachers and we are supposed to teach 1 to 8. However the program requires a teacher’s total commitment and supervision. I fail to teach to the expected standard because I have two classes.

“NRP also requires parent’s involvement in teaching the children when back home. However in the community there are parents who are illiterate and could hardly help their children,” he said.

Ministry of Education Science and Technology, spokesperson, Lindiwe Chide, said implementation of the programme is affected by lack of adequate resources.

She said primary schools across the country are facing challenges such as loss of books by some learners.

Chide said little support from parents to encourage their children to be readingis another worrisome development driving back the programme.

She however said a lot of activities towards the program, such as trainings, were achieved.

“The programme was very fruitful as we have managed to train 38, 591 teachers across the country for standard 1 to 4 in literacy instructions and also provided over 8 million English and Chichewa books and 10, 076, 949 supplementary readers.

“However there has been a setback because some books have been lost by some learners in schools since they are given to be practicing at home, Learners have lost a number of books,” Chide pointed out.

Education Activist, Benedicto Kondowe, said for the programme to be successful, government needs to motivate teachers.

He said money aside, the teachers would be inspired in a special way like provision of certificates to best teachers.

“I think we should not just look at motivation in the context of money though some teachers were complaining that they are not being motivated enough.

“There are so many mechanisms in which we can motivate teachers for example provision of resource books so that teachers are committed,” Kondowe added.

He said provision of refresher courses or trainings and motivation of recognition certificates for those who are doing extremely well.

Kondowe said a lot in the NRP has to be done because a lot of teachers are not well orientated in terms of their roles and responsibilities.

“If you look at the National Reading Programme, you will note that on one hand teachers are not adequately oriented in terms of their roles and responsibilities and the knowledge requirement to utilize the national reading programme agenda,” he added.

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