Link Community Development

Improving the quality of education in Africa

Family Literacy Project

The Family Literacy Project aims to address the low literacy achievement of many primary school children and the lack of confidence of parents/community members in their ability to provide support to these children. The project operates in 60 schools and communities and aims to directly impact on 28,388 lower primary learners and a minimum of 56,776 parents through Reading Club, adult literacy classes and community reading fairs.



Funder: Anonymous

Total Funding: £301,703.03

Dates: April 2013 – September 2015

The Challenge

Nationally, access to basic education in Malawi has greatly improved since universal free primary education was introduced in 1994 (over 4 million learners are now in primary school).  But this massive increase has also had negative consequences including huge class sizes in lower primary (average pupil-teacher ratio is 80:1); insufficient numbers of classrooms, teachers and teaching and learning materials; high repetition and dropout rates.

One serious consequence of the massive increase in primary school enrolment in Malawi has been poor learner attainment and there is very strong evidence that the majority of lower primary learners are not learning basic literacy skills.

“Although the education sector has made significant gains in increasing equitable access to the primary education system, learning levels remain low as indicated in national learning assessments. The 2010 and 2011 USAID/Malawi early grade reading assessment results show that significant numbers of Standard 2 and 4 students had 0 scores in letter recognition, knew few letter names, read few words, and had minimal comprehension of grade level text, with 97.1% of Standard 2 students and 69.3% of students in Standard 4 were unable to answer a single comprehension question correctly.”[1]

Compounding the low literacy attainment of many learners is the fact that most Malawian children, particularly in rural districts such as Dedza, live in a literacy-poor environment, with many parents and community members themselves being illiterate and with very little access to reading materials. 

Project Aims

The Family Literacy Project aims to address the low literacy achievement of many primary school children and the lack of confidence of parents/community members in their ability to provide support to these children. As the parents are the first and most important educators of children, the family literacy approach supports both adults and children to develop literacy. The main objectives of the Family Literacy Project are:

(a)  to improve the  reading skills and learning attainment of early primary learners (Standards 1 -3),

(b) to increase parental/community support for the development of basic literacy skills for children, particularly at lower primary levels, and,

(c)  to increase parental/community capacity to support school improvement.

This project aims to increase access to reading materials, using the learners’ home language (Chichewa).  It aims to increase adult literacy of parents, particularly mothers, and enhance community support for literacy by: providing literacy classes, especially focused on mothers; establishment of reading clubs where children can learn and read together; training classroom ‘parent helpers’ who will attend literacy lessons in lower primary classrooms to help support the learning of their children.

Project Activities

1.       Establish after-school Reading Clubs in 60 schools in Dedza and provide training and support to Reading Club Mentors (local high school graduates)

2.       Work with the District Community Development Office to set up and run Adult Literacy Centres in 60 locations associated with the selected schools.

3.       Source and distribute early grade reading books in Chichewa (first language)

4.       Run annual reading fairs for learners to showcase their talents and encourage community excitement around reading

Headline Achievements

  • The 60 Reading Clubs are well attended by on average 50-100 learners each day and a total of 6,000 are enrolled.
  • 1,917 adult literacy students completed the course and there was a 97% pass rate. Thereafter all graduates continued to work with the Adult Literacy Tutors and Reading Club Mentors to learn how to support the Reading Clubs in Schools and (in future) villages).
  • 6 reading fairs were attended by on average 150 community members and parents and received very positive feedback.
  • Reading Club mentors and learners demonstrated their work at the Dedza District Conference in February 2015 where delegates from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology were extremely impressed with the mentors who were as skilled and enthusiastic as qualified teachers.

Final Report

Read about all the project achievements in the Final Report. 


[1] USAID, EGRA RFA 2012


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