Cameroon: Improving Child Literacy – Nascent Solutions Offers Over 100,000 Books to Three Regions

The locally published story books worth 144 million FCFA were donated to 148 nursery and elementary schools in the Adamawa, East and North Regions by the American government under the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme.

The Government of the United States of America, through the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, is funding a five-year McGovern-Dole, MGD, Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme in Cameroon implemented by the International Non-governmental Organisation, Nascent Solutions. The project benefits pupils, teachers and community members in 240 primary school communities in four target regions of the country. Of the beneficiary schools, 30 are in Adamawa, 18 in the East, 100 in the North, and 92 schools in the North West Regions. The project seeks to improve the literacy of schools age children and foster good health and dietary practices.

Since April 2021, Nascent Solutions has distributed 108,446 copies of 97 locally published illustrated titles appropriate for all classes of nursery and primary school. Some 73,565 copies of the books went to the North Region, 20,649 to Adamawa, and 14,232 to the East Region.

Stakeholders Appreciate Donation

“We are so grateful and would like to see the project expanded to more schools in the region. The donation of books by Nascent Solutions is a big honour for us, which has been highly appreciated by regional educational authorities. School libraries are a big treasure to teachers and the general public. We expect better results in future as reading only gets better with time. Already, we have noticed the enthusiasm of pupils when it is time to read the donated books in the library,” Jean Clovis Magloire Eloundou, McGovern-Dole Project Focal Point in the North Regional Delegation of Basic Education explains with joy.

“From the feedback of teachers, the books are good and pupils are so excited reading them. This is more so as most parents are unable to buy books for their children. Given that reading is one of the fundamental skills children need in order to make them succeed in other subjects, I think the story books will be of great help. Most of the recommended readers we have today are too worded. And so it is difficult to teach children because the texts are usually too long and do not often have illustrations to facilitate understanding for children. I believe the books Nascent Solutions has offered will go a long way to help children overcome difficulties in reading. We did an assessment of the pupils’ ability to read before the distribution. We hope to go back after some time to evaluate how much progress they have made in reading,” says Ngeh Bertha, Pedagogic Adviser for Nursery Education in the East Regional Delegation of Basic Education.

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Njouktousia Ernest, Pedagogic Inspector for Literacy, Informal Basic Education and Promotion of National Languages, Adamawa Regional Delegation for Basic Education, is also grateful to Nascent for the partnership with the government of Cameroon, which has seen the offer of different forms of assistance to schools. He says the training of teachers in managing school libraries and the donation of leisure books will boost literacy. “The impact of the gift on reading will be quite great. Many parents in remote communities cannot afford books for their children. Or the books are not even available to buy. We believe the literacy of our children is now guaranteed. And that there is a brighter future for education in Adamawa Region,” Njouktousia avers.

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School Officials’ Take

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Henri Dupont Olivier Zoa, Head Teacher of Government Primary School, Bonis, Bertoua, East Region, concurs that the new books will improve his pupils’ reading and help them to do better in examinations. “They will better handle challenges in life if they are able to read,” Olivier Zoa stresses.

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“I thank Nascent Solutions, its partners and the government of Cameroon. The coming of this Non-governmental Organisation to our school has encouraged many children to continue with their education. And those who already dropped out to return to school,” notes Ange Souare, Chair of Government Primary School, Kismatari Parent Teachers’ Association, PTA, Garoua, North Region. She explains that parents have been encouraged to take more interest in their children’s education. “The setting up of our school library is promoting learning amongst children. This, in no small measure, will help in raising the level of literacy,” Souare assures.

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“We are grateful for Nascent’s donation of 1,890 leisure books to our already existing library. It will encourage our pupils to work harder, help in their training, improve their vocabulary and grammar, and the love for reading at a time when children spend more time watching television,” says Rev. Sister Thérèse Émile Zobo, Coordinator of Saint Angele Merici Primary School, Bamyanga, Ngaoundere, Adamawa Region.

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Stakeholders Involved

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Prior to the distribution of the books, Nascent sensitised project communities on the importance of extended reading to improving literacy skills. It identified and collaborated with the regional delegations of the Ministry of Basic Education in the three regions to train two library managers to assist library users in each project school. Schools were also supported to prepare space for libraries, while large metal boxes were provided to schools without suitable space to store their library resources, while awaiting a better solution.

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North West Dividends

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Meanwhile, the McGovern-Dole Project implemented only in the North West Region from 2015-2018 benefitted pupils from 92 schools, their families and community members. Schools received about 128,000 books, sourced locally and internationally. These books are still being used at community level despite the ongoing conflict in the region, thanks to the assistance of trained library managers and Nascent field staff.

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The project includes the establishment of nursery/primary school libraries to offer pupils critical access to leisure reading resources. By so doing, it is hoped that children’s worldview will expand and increase their interest in reading. All requirements for developing literacy.

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Assuring Sustainability

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Before the recent distribution of story books in the North, Adamawa and East Regions, Nascent Solutions, last year in collaboration with the Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL Africa, organised two five-day workshops in Yaounde for Francophone and Anglophone authors and potential authors. The training focused on using Bloom book writing software to develop literature for pupils. The objective being to develop local skills for increasing and sustaining access by young learners to contextually-relevant literature.

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Participants from the workshops are currently drafting stories that will be jointly reviewed by Nascent and the Ministries of Basic Education and Culture. Validated manuscripts will be published jointly with Nascent and copies acquired for distribution to project school libraries.

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