Literacy Changes Everything

“Literacy unlocks the capacity of individuals to imagine and create a more fulfilling future.” Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN

By 12:00 p.m. this afternoon, I had already read nine newspaper articles, seven blogs, one UN report, four chapters in two books, as well as countless emails and Twitter updates. I’ve written emails, texts, Twitter updates, a couple Facebook messages, three documents for work, and now this blog update. A typical day. For me.

Consider for a moment that I was never taught how to read or write. How different would my life be? If I were not literate, I would never have “met” some of the most influential characters in my life story. I would never have fallen in love with the history and culture that was so foreign to my demographically homogeneous hometown. I would not fully understand the need to give a voice to those who have been silenced. I cannot perceive a path that would allow me to do what I am doing today without the ability to read.

Now, consider the young girl in Africa that dreams of being a nurse, but was never able to attend school, or the young boy that would love to fly planes, but he does not know how to read and write. I’ve met many of these children–who have a passion to change their world, but lack the basic skills to do so.

There are more than 800 million people worldwide who are not able to read and write, with millions more who only have basic literacy skills. We know that literacy increases child survival, economic opportunity, and hope for future generations. On International Literacy Day, we want to give these people a voice.  We want to help change their circumstance.  Will you join us?

Kimberly Casey, Special Assistant and Program Manager

Guest Blog: Lessons

We were not the only teachers. The children taught us things that no professor could ever teach in a classroom–lessons that we will forever hold in our hearts.

As future teachers, helping children learn and succeed is one of our many passions. Arriving at the orphanage in Mtendere Village we were unsure of just how this passion would be sparked, but it quickly lit on fire and burned the whole time we were there. Some of us had spent minimal time working with children, especially directly in a classroom. This experience level quickly changed as we were divided up into different classrooms our second day at Mtendere. There were some students teaching the housemothers of the village, others in preschool age classrooms, and then others in primary or secondary aged classrooms. Every classrooms proposed challenges and situations to apply different teaching methods we had been taught all the way back at Ball State University.

Some students even had the experience of working one on one with the children at Mtendere, in an hour and half tutoring session everyday. These tutoring sessions allowed us to work on a more personal level with the children and help them individually in the area of reading. The sessions consisted of learning the level of reading our student could achieve, and work on areas such as comprehension that proved to be more difficult. The sessions not only consisted of helping the children with reading, but it also proposed opportunities to get to know and create relationships with our students.

Our time in Mtendere was spent mostly with the children; we acted as teachers to them whether it was in the classroom or playing games. We were not the only teachers. The children taught us things that no professor could ever teach in a classroom–lessons that we will forever hold in our hearts.

Bethany Thompson is an Elementary Education student at Ball State University.

Guest Blog: We Stand for Children

Teacher Training

We all realized that we could learn from each other, and we were all there for the very same reason: we all stand for children.

During our time in Malawi, we were given the amazing opportunity to teach fellow teachers in a professional development day our group organized. We extended the invitation to join us on this day to teachers all over the area around Mtendere Children’s Village. The day of the event, 32 teachers joined us, anxious to learn from us. They were so anxious and eager to learn, in fact, that some walked from up to eight miles away just to be there.

Being a group of students much younger and less experienced than most of our participants was a challenge we had to confront, as some teachers there had over 30 years of experience. However, once the day began, we all realized that we could learn from each other, and we were all there for the very same reason: we all stand for children. Our group of Ball State students and the Malawian teachers, despite our age differences and varying experiences, were united on this day, and we collaborated to learn how to better serve the children of the world.

Prior to coming to Malawi, while we were planning for the professional development day, we were told that the teachers were interested in learning about teaching theories. With that, we decided to teach Lev Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding, and differentiation of instruction. The day was broken up into two parts: the first being a direct instruction part and the second being a collaborative group-work portion. During the direct instruction, three girls from our group basically gave the information in front of everyone, while the teachers were given papers with which to take notes. For the group-work portion of the day, we all broke into small groups with two girls from our group, and around four or five Malawian teachers. Here, we further discussed the topics at hand, and collaborated to come up with ways the theories could be put into action in our classrooms.

It proved a struggle for many of the teacher’s to envision these theories in their classrooms because in their classrooms, they may have up to 200 students for just one teacher. Despite the differences in classroom environments and cultures, the Malawian teachers were incredibly open to new ideas, and were eager to share their own knowledge with all of us. In the end, we asked everyone, Malawian teachers and Ball State students alike, to share a bit about what they liked or learned during our time together. It became clear that we all learned a great deal from one another, and would definitely be taking new insights back with us into our classrooms and lives.

Lauren Rayborn is an Elementary Education student at Ball State University.