March 30, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic – and potentially lasting – effect on young learners everywhere. As the first quarter of 2022 comes to a close, we are sharing some recent examples of how Room to Read is helping to meet children and families where they are to ensure education endures and children access their right to learn.
Primary school students returned to in-person classes in Bangladesh on March 20, 2022, after a two-month pandemic-related school closure. To help prepare children from historically under-resourced communities for the return to in-person learning, Room to Read Bangladesh has distributed physical learning materials like notebooks and worksheets. These materials will support all children currently enrolled in Grade 1 and Grade 2 in two sub-districts —Ukhiya and Kutubdia — of Cox’s Bazar.
As of March 22, 7,730 students in Grade 1 and Grade 2 had received notebooks and worksheets. By the end of March, Room to Read Bangladesh plans to reach 6,814 more children with these types of learning materials.
This past year, Room to Read social mobilizers, our local mentors, used several approaches to conduct group mentoring sessions, including in-person, virtual and live streams. Since schools re-opened in January, girls can once again attend all group mentoring sessions in-person. This past quarter, 3,279 girls in upper secondary school and 1,509 girls in lower secondary school participated in group mentoring. We have also been able to invite guest speakers to join several group mentoring sessions to share their experiences with the girls. The in-person gatherings have been critically important in ensuring that girls continue to develop life skills and build community.
The first quarter of this year began with a collaboration between Room to Read India and the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD). Together, we created posters that depicted the myriad ways people can challenge gender stereotypes, an initiative that aligned nicely with the official theme of International Women’s Day, “Break the Bias.” The posters were developed in collaboration with the DWCD and launched by Delhi State Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, for distribution across the state. The posters were then shared by the DWCD with other government adolescent centers and childcare institutions.
Room to Read Laos announced the recruitment of freelance writers to produce a variety of stories for book publishing in 2022. Twelve writers were invited to develop their stories for submission. Among them is Ms. Fongsamai Phommaxay, who has attended Room to Read’s writers’ workshops — held across program countries to support local authors and illustrators as they develop child-friendly books — many times. Her stories have been selected in the past for both their cultural relevance and compelling storylines. According to Ms. Fongsamai Phommaxay, “I closed my shop for a week to attend Room to Read’s writers’ workshop. I lost some business for the week, but I know I will be so proud of myself to see my story published in a couple of months. It was worth it.”
Room to Read Nepal’s Girls’ Education Program staff recently created a podcast focused on climate justice, which provides girls with skills to adapt to the realities of climate change. The podcast also highlights the need to support a sustainable and resource-efficient society.
In honor of National Library Week, schools participated in various literacy-focused activities in March. At one of our program schools in Kwa-Zulu Natal province, a teacher spoke on the importance of celebrating Library Week and making reading a lifelong habit. Her talk was aired on ICORA-FM, a community radio station that also airs our radio read alouds, and was followed by a poem recited by a Grade 3 student from Nkume Primary School.
Room to Read South Africa project schools also celebrated World Read Aloud Day on February 2. The schools hosted literacy events where students, parents, caregivers and educators took part in read-aloud activities.
In the province of Limpopo, Room to Read South Africa has expanded into two new districts: Mopani East and West. A virtual introductory meeting was held on February 24 with Room to Read staff and Mopani West district representatives to strengthen the relationship in advance of program implementation. This means that the Room to Read footprint continues to grow as we work toward changing the world by educating children.
Between late January and early March, Room to Read Sri Lanka partnered with the Sunday Times’ children’s paper, Funday Times, to publish a series of reading development tips. These tips were designed to support parents as they help their children learn how to read and write with comprehension and instill a lifelong habit of reading. An animated series with the same tips was also featured on Room to Read Sri Lanka’s social media accounts to reach a wider audience of caregivers and educators.
Plan International Tanzania, a partner NGO of Room to Read, recently visited Room to Read Tanzania’s Literacy Program and Girls’ Education Program to learn how the two programs have been implemented. Plan International intends to use the knowledge gained to guide the implementation of their new project, “Keeping Adolescent Girls in School (KAGIs).” The visit involved Plan International staff, government officials, Room to Read staff and students from both programs.
Plan International was interested in learning more about several aspects of Room to Read’s programs — how activities are integrated into a school’s timetable, which implementation modality Room to Read uses at the school level, what reporting systems are used when working with governments and how Room to Read integrates gender, and sexual and reproductive health topics into a school’s curriculum. During the visit, guests received detailed presentations on each program. They observed Girls’ Education Program activities, including life skills sessions, group mentoring sessions, exhibition activities and life skills sports activities. They also observed Literacy Program instruction lessons and feedback sessions between literacy facilitators and the instruction teachers, as well as library management techniques and library reading activities.
Throughout this past quarter, Room to Read Vietnam’s Girls’ Education Program in Vinh Long province organized a series of online activities titled “I am confident — I am happy’’ to connect and support Girls’ Education Program alumnae. In addition to weekly online minigames, we hosted two webinars with several guest speakers from the psychology, human resources and communication sectors. During these events, speakers shared their knowledge of and experience in building a personal brand and maintaining social relationships. In total, 70 alumnae participated in these activities and gave positive feedback about applying these tips in their own lives.