More than 50 of CODE’s most loyal supporters braved the humidity last week to attend CODE’s annual donor reception - held this year at the beautifully renovated allsaints community space in Sandy Hill. The reception date, Thursday September 8th, was very à propos as it marked the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day and the launch of the new Global Education Monitoring Report.
Scott Walter, CODE’s Executive Director, hosted the evening and paid special tribute to one of CODE’s most generous donors, William “Bill” Burt. Mr. Burt became involved with CODE in 2007 after taking part in its 2007 Seeing is Believing Tour to Ethiopia. Upon his return from that trip, Bill became a devoted and exceptionally generous CODE supporter. His first order of business? To help CODE get engaging books into the hands of young adults. In 2008, The Burt Award for African Literature was launched in Tanzania to recognise excellent, engaging and culturally relevant books. Burt Award programs for three more African countries soon followed. There are now Burt Award programs for Caribbean Literature and, most recently, First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature.
Poor health prevented Mr. Burt from receiving the CODE Director’s Award but accepting it on his behalf were dignitaries from three countries in which the Burt Award program has made a tremendous impact -- namely Ms. Ukubi Hanfere Mohammed, First Secretary, public diplomacy of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Paul James Makelele from the Tanzanian High Commission, and Dr. Sulley Gariba –High Commissioner to Ghana.
Other attendees included CODE board member Rosamaria Durand, long-time CODE member and donor, Gwynneth Evans, and Afreenish Yusirah –CODE’s new CODE on Campus representative from Carleton University.
The event was also an opportunity for CODE to acknowledge 25 years of partnership with its UNESCO award-winning partners the Children’s Book Project of Tanzania and Associação Progresso of Mozambique.
The event concluded with the exciting announcement of CODE’s 2017 Seeing is Believing –Ghana tour. His Excellency, Dr. Sulley Gariba, High Commissioner to Ghana, personally extended an invitation to the audience promising participants a very warm welcome to his country. The tour, set to begin on February 15th 2017, will provide participants with the opportunity to visit children and teachers engaged in CODE’s programming in schools in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
by Abdul Kanu and Johanna Kuyvenhoven
One of the highlights from Revitalising Education Development in Sierra Leone (REDiSL) happens when a dozen children come to learn with us. For 45 minutes or more, they take up a cluster of desks at the front and make our learning “real”. During the session, three or four teacher participants lead children through a teaching of reading lessons. The children aren’t the only ones learning. We all are!
The children come earlier than most teacher-participants. They fill the playground and school veranda with talk, play, and laughter. When the bell rings they watch the 376 teachers-in-training make their ways into the 12 classrooms. They are left sitting in a long, longing row; waiting for 9:30. Then, they’ll eat breakfast with us and then join us in the classroom.
Teacher-participants take turns, in small groups, conducting a lesson with the children. Every session is centered around an apt story or poem. Teachers introduce the lesson with a snappy-chant and then go to prepare for comprehension with questions, a storytelling, some drawings or objects to talk about. Having gained children’s interest and established a context for thinking about the reading, the next participant steps up to work with the reading. Again, using children’s L1 or, as it is called here: children’s Mother Tongue, a participant introduces the (English) text and reads slowly, translating, explaining line by line. After reading and talking together, the next participant follows up the reading with talking, drawing; directing a dramatic replay or other comprehension activities. Finally, the lesson moves to working with words we learned in the text. We do an onset and rime or vocabulary activity with the word wall. When the children leave we discuss what we’ve learned. Inevitably, it’s a lot.
This practice has been extraordinarily educative. Participants learned about, and then practiced or watched the rhythm of a reading activity that ensures children’s interest and comprehension. The observe and learn about children’s reading activity and independent literacy practices afterward. Participants saw for themselves that children can read a new text with the teacher, instead of repeating line by line. They discovered that children, given the opportunity, have “very clever ideas”! Children are quite able to draw and try to write without copying. Given gentle, persistent guidance, children do catch on to onset and rime patterns and more.
Perhaps best of all, they have experienced the ways in which children’s own languages are critical to learning activity and comprehension. In our classrooms, the arguments were passionately for only English use. Faced with the children faces, and experiencing strong evidence of the ways genuine comprehension of a text or task crushed the argument. Participants saw reading come to new life and energy; children’s responses eager and informed. They found themselves making more extensive and authentic use of Mother Tongue to teach reading; to learn about sounds and letters, and gather up richer meanings for the words in their stories.
There is another reason for the success of the Fishbowl. The activity is consistent with oral cultural learning pedagogies. In our workshop, we have realized how Kono District participants come, rich with oral culture. Participants use speech and personal interactions in complex ways, with confidence and power.
In the classroom when we ask for volunteers to give an oral summary, a story or lead the discussion, almost the entire class clamors for the honor. Participants memorize a song or reading after hearing it twice. We find participants to be skillful listeners and orators. Classrooms ring with conversations, songs, chants, vigorous discussions and more. As we enlarge the potentials of language with print practices, we are learning to use this rich scaffolding ‘space.’
We won’t pretend this was easy to pull together. Gathering and organizing 86 lively children; coaxing teachers who don’t usually interact with children in these ways; working through the awkwardness of new methods ... these are just some of the challenges we all faced. But, gentle persistence led to the thrill of clear learning achievements.
At the conclusion, the Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) office gave every child a notebook, pencil, and sharpener. An apt reward, one that recognizes a possible new beginning: Children who read and write.
Abdul Kanu and Johanna Kuyvenhoven are trainers working with CODE in Sierra Leone to deliver professional development to upgrade teachers skills through the REDiSL initiative.
An article written by CODE's Executive Director, Scott Walter is featured in the Diplomat & International Canada magazine - Summer 2017 issue - Notes from the field: Literacy thanks to CODE.
The full issue is also available at
CODE and its partner in Sierra Leone, PEN-Sierra Leone, are thrilled to be getting a helping hand with their programming from the crews of two visiting Royal Canadian Navy vessels. On Monday, March 20th, sailors from the HMCS Summerside and the HMCS Moncton will take to shore for a trip to Aberdeen Municipal School in Freetown to participate in a group reading of CODE’s locally produced Reading Sierra Leone children’s books. The books will be presented to the school by Willy Rangira – CODE’s program manager for Sierra Leone. The marines and sailors will interact with school children and will also help build and install shelves in the school library.
CODE’s Executive Director, Scott Walter, is delighted that CODE’s programming has once again been selected as an example of Canada’s ongoing support of development through education. Last October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited CODE’s programming in Liberia.
“The ability to read and write is the very foundation of what children need to grow into independent learners and problem solving adults who can navigate the world around them”. -CODE Executive Director, Scott Walter
The Aberdeen school outreach is part of the RCN’s broader Neptune Trident 17-01 mission to strengthen Canada’s relationship with West Africa and to retrace historical footsteps connected to Nova Scotia. The city of Freetown was settled by Nova Scotians who were once free slaves that had migrated up to Nova Scotia during the American Revolution. In 1792, 1500 of these freed slaves boarded two vessels and crossed the stormy Atlantic to settle in Freetown. The journey has particular meaning for Lieutenant Commander Paul Smith, the commanding officer of the HCMS Summerside. Lt.-Cmdr Smith is the first black captain of a sea-going Canadian Navy Ship. The HMCS Moncton is commanded by Lt.-Cmdr Nicole Robichaud.
The High Commissioner for Canada to Sierra Leone, Heather Cameron, will be attending the school activity along with local members of the education community in Freetown and CODE’s volunteer expert and Reading Sierra Leone program developer Dr. Charles Temple.
High Commissioner Cameron is hosting the initial event on Sunday March 19th highlighting the rich historical ties between Canada and Sierra Leone and marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This coincides with the 225th anniversary of the founding of Freetown and will take place on board the HMCS Summerside and the HMCS Moncton. CODE’s Willy Rangira and PEN’s Mohammed Sheriff will attend the reception along with Alhajie Sallieu Kanu from Reading Sierra Leone’s other local partner, TALLE (The Association of Language and Literacy Educators). Other guests will include the Canadian expat community in Freetown and Sierra Leonean dignitaries – including the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, and the Ministers of Tourism and Education.
The Reading Sierra Leone program is entirely funded by CODE and loyal Canadian supporters.
CODE’s Director of International Programs, Hila Olyan, and Firas Elfarr, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, participated in The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Annual Meeting in Atlanta Georgia from March 5-9, 2017.
CODE's Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Firas Elfarr presenting at CIES 2017.
CODE expert-volunteer, Dr. Charles Temple speaking to attendees at CIES 2017.
CODE gave two presentations – Reading CODE: Assessing a Comprehensive Readership Initiative in Tanzania (with CODE expert-volunteer Charles Temple co-presenting) and Reading Kenya Breaks New Ground in Literacy Education in Kajiado County – presented by CODE's Kenyan experts Dr. Adelheid Bwire from Kenyatta University and Dr. George Andima from Kisii University.
Dr. Adelheid Bwire from Kenyatta University in Nairobi presenting at CIES 2017.
Dr. George Andima from Kisii University in Kenya speaking at CIES 2017.
The CIES was founded in 1956 to foster cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement and societal development through the international study of educational ideas, systems, and practices. The Society’s members include over 3000 academics, students, practitioners, and policymakers from around the world.
CODE was very pleased to hear Deputy Director of Education for Global Affairs Canada, Julia Dicum, mention CODE’s Reading Kenya program in her presentation.
For more info about CIES visit www.cies2017.org/cies-2017/
On March 4th the IFP Alberto Chipande in Pemba, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique hosted the launch of a collection of 26 titles, involving 6 languages. This initiative is an important part of BETTER - as it supports the creation of concept books and books for emergent readers from initial primary classes.
Approximately 400 people attended the event — including government representatives, teacher educators, student teachers, primary students, teachers and parents.
The highlight was a reading competition in which 18 children from grades 2 to 7 indulged and inspired the audience with a varied array of short stories. The IFP student teachers animated the event with group and individual art performances.
The Global Affair’s Canada funded BETTER program (Better Education through Teacher Training and Empowerment for Results) is being implemented by CODE together with Associação Progresso and the Mozambican Ministry of Education and Human Development in four of Mozambique’s 12 provinces. The program is also generously supported by Mozambique LNG.
“How can we get more tablets?”
By Hila Olyan, CODE Director of International Programs
“How many people have used a tablet before?” asks the facilitator. One person raises their hand. “How many people have used a smart phone?” This time 6 hands go up.
There are 23 librarians around the table. It is the third day of librarian training in Addis Ababa. The librarians have come from across the country as part of CODE’s Reading Ethiopia / Beyond Access program.
The project is a joint effort by CODE, CODE-Ethiopia and IREX to pilot an improved set of services at community libraries. In particular, the project aims to improve access to supplementary reading materials in local languages; create opportunities for children, youth and their families to practice reading and writing; and strengthen parental and community engagement to support literacy.
...we’re introducing technology (tablets) into the program to further increase literacy and support readers of all ages.
The program has been ongoing in various iterations for more than 15 years but this time we’ve decided to get a little more innovative: we’re introducing technology (tablets) into the program to further increase literacy and support readers of all ages. Custom apps in Amharic and Afaan Oromo have been put on the tablets – and librarians are learning to use them for the first time.
To begin with the training is hard. Getting the hang of a touchscreen is a new experience for just about everyone. Desktop is a new term. Drag and drop is a new action. Uploading, downloading, USB cable – there are no shortage of new concepts.
Admittedly I start to worry. Perhaps we’ve been too optimistic. Can we really teach the librarians all they’ll need to know before they head home? We’ve got two and half days to move from ‘never seen a tablet’ to ‘in-house tablet expert.’ It is clear the next few days will be busy.
Turning it on is easy. Swiping right, that’s a little trickier. There’s the volume and the back light. It takes practice but its clear the librarians can handle that too. Then we move onto the apps. To begin with there will be three that were custom made. One for beginning readers. A second which starts to look at word recognition. Then there is story app.
Not only are the librarians able to navigate the apps (with our guidance), but it’s clear they are enjoying this. They are trying out the headsets, they are getting the hang of the camera (yes, there were selfies), but most importantly they are eager to explore all of the functions.
The day comes to an end. We send each librarian home for the evening.
Early the next morning we meet at the National Archives and Library Agency. It’s clear everyone has been practicing. It’s not clear that anyone has slept.
Every librarian has their tablet in hand. All of them have figured out the cameras and plan to take a video of the library to show their communities back home.
“Have you been trying the apps?” I ask one of the women.
“Of course.” She smiles. “I stayed up late practicing."
“What did you think?” I follow up.
“How can we get more tablets?” she asks, “I think they will be very popular.”
April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day -- the mission is to promote books, reading and the diversity of cultural expressions, especially among young people, as one of the crucial elements for a prosperous society.
The year 2016 is special, marking the 400th anniversary of the death of two exceptional writers: William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. The legacy of these two great men goes beyond literature and inspires entire generations to think about important society issues that are nowadays still on the agenda.
In order to encourage literacy, reading and the dialogue between different cultures, UNESCO is looking forward to bring out a universal dimension to this internationally celebrated day. An interactive map highlights events organized by librarians, booksellers, publishers and associations around the world: https://wbcd2016.crowdmap.com
Celebrate World #BookDay and share your ideas and actions with all!
Visit www.unesco.org/new/en/wbcd and spread the news around you!
Shelagh Rogers has hosted the awards ceremony for CODE's Burt Award for First Nations Métis and Inuit Literature three years in a row. To mark International Volunteer Day on December 5th, we asked Shelagh what inspires her to volunteer for CODE year after year:
"The Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Metis literature is an award like no other on the literary landscape of Canada. Not only are Indigenous authors honoured, so are young Indigenous readers. The books are chosen with an eye to young readers being able to recognize themselves in the stories.
The generous founder of the award, William Burt, started reading the Hardy Boys books as a ten year old. He identified with the two teenaged boys who solved mysteries. He identified with them. He saw himself in them. He could join them as they worked on their cases. Mr. Burt wanted to ensure that young Indigenous readers could have that same kind of experience: seeing yourself in a story. Imagining what is possible. Understanding a life that is not your own.
I am honoured to be involved with The Burt Awards because of this generous premise. It all comes down to a sense of belonging. If you share a story with me, a bit of you stays with me and vice versa. Because when we share a story with someone, a part of us belongs to another. I love the power that stories have.
Also, I am very excited to support Indigenous writers in Canada. What a fertile time this is! The Burt Awards also celebrate the authors and do so much to get them out into communities and schools so that the readers can rub elbows with them and ask them questions face to face. What a great gift.
It is a pleasure to be affiliated with these awards. They help to create community and to foster a lifelong love of reading and stories. And it’s so much fun, fun of the most profound kind. It is always deeply moving and I thank Mr. Burt for his vision and his generosity."
By Hila Olyan, Programme Manager
“Where do you live?” I ask Vincent.
“Near the shops,” he tells me.
“That’s a long way,” I respond, “do you walk?”
“No,” says Vincent, but he smiles.
“Then how do you get here?” I pry.
Vincent is six years old and a Standard (grade) one student at Olepolos Primary School in Kajiado county, Kenya. He treks several kilometres to school every day. Despite what seemed to me to be a very long, rutted drive to the school, Olepolos is actually considered one of the more cosmopolitan schools to participate in the Reading Kenya Project. Children there typically walk about five kilometers to attend classes but, during what has been a very wet and rainy May, even the ‘short’ distances are no easy feat.
“Why do you like school?” I ask him. Soila, one of our project officers, is helping me translate. (The introduction alone has exhausted my knowledge of Kiswahili and Vincent can answer more clearly in Maa, the local language in this region). It turns out he wants to learn Kiswahili and math. His mother, who owns a small kiosk and his father, a local butcher, have told him those are important skills. Vincent agrees... except that he wants to be a teacher one day.
Next up is Deborah. A classmate of Vincent’s, she is nine years old. Like many students in Kajiado county, her walk to school is longer so she needed a few more years before making the trip herself.
Deborah and I sit down under a tree. She’s much shyer than Vincent, so I have to strain to hear her excited whispers. She tells me that she loves English class and that she has read two books at the new library.
Mariamu Goes Shopping is her favorite. She has also read one about Aisha and Mambo. I’m not sure who they are but I can tell from her expression that she obviously liked that book too. I’m pleased to see that even the Standard one students are making use of the library and the new books provided through the Reading Kenya.
“No, the one with the boy and the monkey!” Now Vincent is interrupting us to make sure I know which book is his favorite.
Their teacher brought a box of books from the library the previous week and each student picked out a few to read. Book boxes are one of the strategies we often use with the early grades. It provides the teacher with the opportunity to strategically select appropriate books for her class and it makes it easier to keep an eye on all of the students.
When the project started there wasn’t a single story book to be found at Olepolos Primary School. Over the past year, CODE and its local partner, the National Book Development Council of Kenya, have provided more than 2,000 new books to the school (and to 24 other schools in Kajiado county as well). We’ve also trained one of their teachers as well as the head teacher on the basics of library management. In return, the parents have turned an empty class room into a small library. They’ve built shelves, while we are providing tables and chairs and a few mats where children can sit and read.
The library is still small, but it’s a start. The kids are embracing it, the teachers are using it, and the parents are supporting it. It’s the most you can ask for as a programme officer.
“Next time,” I say to Vincent and Deborah, “we’re going to the library and you two are going to read to me.”
They think I’m joking. I’m not. I can’t wait to get back there to see just how many books they’ve read.
CODE Programme Manager Hila Olyan is currently in Kajiado, Kenya, to observe teacher training and visit program school as part of Reading Kenya. This project is made possible thanks to funding from the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.