A student’s ability to read, write, and comprehend are critical skills for student academic achievement, yet many schools in Uganda fall behind in literacy development. According to UNICEF, only 40% of students are literate in Uganda by Primary 6. (https://www.unicef.org/uganda/what-we-do/quality-education) How can primary schools in Uganda increase literacy rates for students? FSD Intern Hannah Patterson spent her internship with Community Concerns Uganda (CCUg) exploring these questions and developing an asset-based approach to increase literacy development. Hannah came to FSD after completing her bachelor’s degree at Adelaide University. Upon joining CCUg, Hannah undertook an extensive community assessment to understand factors of successful and sustained literacy development at two local schools: Wabulungu and Baitambogwe Primary Schools. Through her assessments, she found that one of the greatest threats to literacy development was overstretched resources and strained relationships, which in turn negatively impacted student performance, student literacy, and student retention. However, because they are public schools, she faced limitations in increasing resources in a sustainable way without the support of the Ministry of Education and Sports, which is often difficult to secure. Therefore, the project focused on emphasizing the use of existing resources and strengths of the school.
Using the asset-based approach, Hannah looked to build the capacity of the school community (parents, teachers, and students) to address and solve their own identified challenges. By enhancing the relationships between students, teachers, and parents, she realized that all stakeholders could become engaged in the child’s academic growth. Hannah then designed a Literacy Action Plan in consultation with teachers, parents, and students to create mutual accountability in literacy development and academic growth of the students. She piloted the program at Wabulungu Primary School which included implementing “Literacy Days” – a day full of literacy games and activities at school that parents are invited to attend, which had a benefit of practicing literacy skills and building relationships. She facilitated the development of a discipline policy which would decrease corporal punishment and strengthen the relationship between teachers and students. She also created Literacy Committees for students and teachers to take accountability for their own learning.
Through her research and pilot program at Wabulungu, Hannah was able to strengthen the bond and empower the community to engage everyone in the student’s literacy development. Both CCUg and the community at Wabulungu Primary School expressed that her efforts made lasting impact on student achievement.