March 13, 2016
Written by USAID
Seven-year-old Bridget Mandalai stood quietly next to her father, Hardwick, waiting patiently as a long line of people trailed behind them. The rainy season was over but winter’s coolness was still far off, and green grass was yielding to the ubiquitous red dust that defines Malawi’s dry season. To pass the time, Bridget bent down, picked up a stick, and started making shapes in a patch of dirt. The shapes turned into letters that turned into words, and her father watched with amazement.
Hardwick sent Bridget, like her siblings before her, to Pamela Ndaziona’s Standard (Grade) 1 at the Makanda School in the Ntchisi School District because, although illiterate himself, he believed that going to school was an important part of growing up. However, unlike her siblings, Bridget brought home reading materials and showed her father that she could read the words in the books. He was amazed. His other children did not start reading until at least Standard 3. He could not remember them ever bringing home reading materials.
Bridget’s entire Standard 1 experience was different from her siblings. Just before the beginning of the school year, Ndaziona was trained through the USAID Early Grade Reading Activity (EGRA) to deliver high-quality reading instruction to her Standard 1 students. She received materials to aid in reading instruction, had coaching visits to help her refine her technique, and attended two week-long training courses on the best ways to teach reading. Most importantly, Ndaziona applied this training to the constantly shifting population of 125 students enrolled in her class.
“Are you really reading those words?” Hardwick asked Bridget.
“Yes, father,” she said, “Look I will show you.” And she began to show her father, just like she had been taught by Ndaziona earlier that day.