Through annual assessments in primary schools, the Harari bureau of education found out that reading, writing, –generally literacy and numeracy skill were challenges that contributed to the lower achievements in other subjects in lower grades. The reading challenge was identified for all the three languages which are used as Medium of Instruction (Amharic, Harari and Afaan Oromo). Many factors for low level reading skills were identified; lack of school readiness for children when they come to grade one; teachers were not adequately trained on how to teach reading; no time allocated to reading in lower primary; lack of supplementary reading materials to reinforce reading skills; lack of general support both at school and at home to reinforce reading skills; and lack of systematic design of reading curriculum to better enhance reading.
Using part of the IKEA Foundation funding, the Regional Education Bureau and UNICEF designed a programme to focus support on school readiness and grades 1 through 4 to build the foundation of the Education system for improved learning outcomes, particularly in reading, writing, learning skills and basic science.
More specifically in response to the reading challenge, a number of strategies were identified at local schools, one of the strategies Developing and producing local supplementary reading materials; producing and sharing learners’ newspapers; organizing lower primary school classes in such way that it support students learning how to read and strengthening co-curricular activities that support students reading through reading corner and book clubs.
During my monitoring visit to Harari in October, 2013, I visited the Madrasa, Mekonnen and Model Primary schools. In these three schools, there is a reading corner at the back of each lower primary classroom with various locally produced materials and newspaper prepared by students. The materials are developed and produced through a positive intra and inter-school competition system. The various students in the school as a team with their teachers write the materials and there is usually a school competition and each class/school team compete first at class then at school level with a group of her/his children and after review are selected for use in the reading corner. The children are encouraged to bring in oral stories from home (parents, grand-parents and from other extended members of the family) and these oral stories are then written down and shared among classes in the school. This positive competition within the school and among the schools has led to availability of reading materials in the three languages used as Medium of instruction in Harari.
The second aspect of the Reading Corner is classroom organization and management. The students with teacher support, organize themselves to better utilize the locally produced resources. These resources are placed in a corner in their classroom and they jointly develop an information retrieval and management system. There is in the same corner, a reading space such as a table where the children can seat and read their own age, relevant and appropriate materials.