by Joy Casey on Dec. 8

It is so nice to be able to have face-to-face time with our Ethiopian staff and not rely on phone connections and emails to discuss things.  Fessessework and I had a long time with Mikiyas, our Children’s Director, and Abebe, our Country Manager, strategizing ways to improve the literacy programs in twelve churches.  Our pilot program of teaching village children to read has been in progress for eleven months.

This trip focused on visiting as many schools as possible and we saw a wide range of outcomes.  Today we set a uniform standard for all schools and Mikiyas is tweaking a curriculum designed to cover the basic reading essentials and simple math.  All schools will meet for four hours a week and target children 8-12 with a size limit of 40-50 kiddos.  Right now, some schools have up to 100 kids from 5-years-old to 14, which is completely unmanageable.  We initiated a reward system for attendance and performance that will be hugely motivating.

Most of the learning now is done orally and writing is practiced on the blackboard or on lap slates.  We need tables and paper and pencils.

Because the churches are in areas of severe food shortages, the children are hungry when they come to learn.  We will start giving a snack prepared by a lady in the church that will reflect the culture of the area.  Some places will prepare round flatbread, other places could serve chickpeas or roasted barley.  We will let the local people decide what is best … but we will get some food in their tummies!

Homemade Easels

But enough of plans … I want to show you pictures of many of the places I visited to give an idea of what the schools are like.  Despite the primitive facilities and large numbers of children, these bright-eyed children are learning!

Some could read beginner books, others more advanced books.  Some were just in the stage of recitation of letters and learning phonics.  About one-third of the children are from Muslim homes.

The Amharic alphabet has no vowels.  The consonants have vowels attached to them, so the symbols represent the consonants with a particular vowel.  There is quite a lot of phonics to learn!

The more I see and understand, the more passionate I become to see reading taught in remote villages where there are no schools.  To attend a formal school, children would have to walk 2-4 hours one way.  This is unrealistic, especially for young children.

More books are needed in all twelve schools. I am grateful to have found Ready-Set-Go books for all reading levels.  They are reasonably priced and can be readily purchased in Ethiopia. We want to expand the library so on certain days and times children can come to the church and read.  There is a scarce supply of children’s books in Ethiopia, even in the cities.  In America, our shelves are jammed packed with brightly illustrated books and we might believe this is normal.  I can state unequivocally it is not normal for much of the world.  We take going to school for granted, with our youngsters learning in brightly lit classrooms staffed with college-educated teachers and all the supplies and aids you could think of.  Here in these villages, simple things like paper and pencil are not available.  And why should they be available when the overwhelming majority of people can’t read and write?

The NLE missionaries are tackling illiteracy in their villages.  They have received training from a teachers’ college to teach reading and have been provided with some teaching aids.  Our goal for 2023 is to equip each church with tables, paper and pens, daily snacks and reading books. What an opportunity to impact individual lives and influence a village! Click on the images below to donate supplies and/or books for these deserving children.