“I gave my home so children have a place to read”
Zahra Kadir, 25, lives in Abdella Kebele of Chora Woreda in Oromia Region. She joined the READ CO project as a Reading Volunteer in December 2016. When Zahra completed her training to become a volunteer, she found out some facilities, such as a reading space, were not ready yet. Nonetheless, she did not let that stop her from practicing her volunteer goals. Instead, she decided to use her house as a reading space for the children where she held the regular biweekly sessions including the weekend for almost one year until the reading camps were properly established.
“After I was trained by the READ CO project in 2016, I tried to facilitate the establishment of a reading camp in the community, so the children can start practicing right away. But there was a delay to hold the discussion with the community and get convenient location for all the children. So, I decided to start the reading sessions in my own house instead of waiting until the camps get established,” says Zahra.
The weekend sessions are the busiest for her as she hosts an average of 60 students per session, where more than half are girls. “Most of the children come 20 – 30 minutes before the session,” says Zahra, “ They are all in grade 1 and 2 so I divide them into two groups based on their grades to make the reading support manageable. Then I engage them in various activities like singing and do other entertaining activities,” she adds. Such activities energize the students and helps them to stay motivated and engaged throughout the session. “I also organise reading buddies in which children with better reading skills support the ones who need assistance. I feel like I am a mother to all of them,” exclaims Zahra. To leverage the reading practices and assist the children with less performance, Zahra pairs up the ones who need more assistance with the ones who have better reading skills.
Misganu Tessema, director of Abdella Primary School, also explains how Zahra’s initiative to support the children without wasting time until the reading camp launches has contributed a lot to the children’s reading habit. “Her initiative amazed us all at the school. Had she not started this, she would have waited for 8 months until the camp started. The children love attending the sessions in her house that even after the reading camp was established in December 2017, they still go to her house and they attend both sessions.”
READ CO project and Abdella Primary School recognise Zahra’s initiative that has a remarkable impact in the children’s education. Evidently, the children have become more passionate about reading and writing because of her relentless dedication to support them. Zahra’s success also alludes to the success of the READ CO project where it has instilled such a strong sense of community support for children’s education. The school and the community also support Zahra’s initiative by providing her with equipment such as mats and blackboards.
“I am proud to support the children in reading. I remember how hard it was to complete my education because of the different responsibilities I had. But these children deserve better environment and support,” she says, “I want to help them make their dreams come true.”
Save the Children, under the leadership of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, has been implementing USAID’s four-year long READ-CO project since January 2015. The project aims to improve the reading and writing skills of children by developing and providing new supplementary reading materials and creating opportunities for children to practice these skills at school, home and elsewhere within the community. Implemented in 96 Woredas in Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions and 2,488 primary schools, the READ CO project is currently reaching 962,757 children in grades 1-4.