OECS/USAID Early Learners Program (ELP) Media Release
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 — Stephanie Brown Primary School in Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is placing literacy at the forefront. As the beneficiary of two OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme (ELP) training sessions, and with one teacher (Kenya Forde) in the final stages of a three-month reading instruction certification programme delivered by the Eastern Caribbean Education Joint Board of Teacher Education (ECJBTE) through the ELP, reading instruction has become a critical element in the overall student instruction and at home learning. In an effort to ensure that every child, particularly from the early grades, had access to general subject and reading instruction during the recent school closures, the school and the teachers put in place a number of initiatives to facilitate continued student learning and reading at home.
For example Raquel Paul – a Kindergarten teacher, went above and beyond normal duties to ensure that she was able to connect with her 22 students from March 2020 through June. Ms. Paul provided weekly lessons for her students while at home despite internet issues and a computer crash. At some points during the school closure, Ms. Paul literally wrote the lessons by hand for each of the children and walked to their homes to deliver the schoolwork. According to Ms. Paul:
“Working from home was much harder than operating from the classroom. I wanted to ensure that I was able to reach all my kindergarten students. In addition, I provided lessons to 8 other students from my area in my home. It was important for me to maintain a connection with the children and continue reading and general instruction during this time.”
Principal Lorette Coy-James from Stephanie Brown Primary recognized that numerous children continue to struggle with reading and are not able to access online learning. With the assistance of Ms. Forde and volunteers, Ms. Coy-James teamed up with the British Union Island Support Group to run the annual Danny Scrubb Summer School. Now in its tenth year, this two-week programme commenced on July 6th was extended to three weeks for 2020. This programme seeks to implement best practices to ensure that students can reach their appropriate reading level. This year, support also came from the American Friends of Union Island.
Principal Coy-James stated:
“We are very excited to host this summer programme in 2020 as it has been a unique and challenging year. Ultimately our goal is to assist our young students with reading. We have nearly 80 children within the programme from various grades at 3 separate schools. Mrs. Forde’s input to the design, development, and rollout of the summer programme, based on her newfound reading expertise from the ECEJBTE and OECS/USAID ELP reading instruction certificate programme has been so beneficial. We are seeing improvements in student’s reading from as early as Kindergarten where the fundamentals of reading start. We believe that literacy holds the key to all learning and therefore we must ensure that we are providing our students with the necessary instruction and support.”
About OECS/USAID ELP:
OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is a Programme within the Education Development Management Unit of the OECS Commission and was established in March 2015 to improve the reading skills of children in the early primary grades with the goal of providing a foundation for improved learning outcomes and enhanced opportunities for students in the six (6) independent Member States of the OECS (Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
To date the ELP has achieved a number of tangible outputs with over 17,000 learners reached at the Primary level, over 1500 Grades K to 3 teachers supported through job embedded professional development, 1426 lessons observed and 1031 coaching sessions with teachers have been completed by ELP Coordinators. Further, 60 schools across the Member States have received development grants to support reading enhancement projects and 173,114 teaching and learning materials have been provided to 750 classrooms across the OECS. The OECS/USAID ELP will run through to September 2020 continuing to develop and implement impactful initiatives that advance early grade reading throughout the OECS.