Eighty-four Grade 1 students in blue and white uniforms, sit scrunched close together on hard wooden bench-desks at New Mandevu school in Lusaka. Given the large number of children attending the school, this was the afternoon class and many youngsters were yawning, probably wishing for a nap instead of lessons.
Their teacher, Mrs Gwera, introduced her colleague and 11-year Taonga Market veteran mentor, Mwenya Mvula, who now teaches Grade 5. He told the children in the local language, Njanja, that they would be participating in a radio lesson for the first time.
Mr Mvula demonstrated the Lifeplayer, calling it a ‘magic radio’. He tuned it into Grade 1: Lesson 1: Segment 1 on the screen, put it on a chair on top of the table so that everyone could see it. He asked the children to stand up and pressed start. What an absolute delight it was to watch these little ones spontaneously dance and sing, “I am excited, I am so happy, Taonga’s your chance to learn. Ta-ta-ta Taonga Market, ta-ta-ta Taonga Market . . .”
After taking part in the first two lessons Mr Mvula asked if they wanted to sing the Taonga song again and they shouted, “yes!” So they did. My colleague, Phil Goodwin, and I also couldn’t help but join in. Additional merriment ensued as the students watched the ‘mazungus’ (white people) singing along.
Mrs Gwera told me that she’d heard about Taonga Market but had never seen it in action. And she loved it. She explained that many children may not have eaten a meal for the day and when just sitting in the classroom, they may doze off. She said the radio programmes would not only combat dozing, she believed that the children would engage with songs and games and they would enjoy learning more. Mrs Gwere also thought the radio programmes would help the teachers who felt overwhelmed with large classes, or who don’t know certain subjects very well, like maths or science.
New Mandevu is a basic primary school with just 27 teachers serving more than 4,500 learners in Grades 1- 9. Many classroom are jam-packed with 100-plus pupils and most teachers teach morning and afternoon classes. Our aim is to provide all Grade 1-4 teachers at New Mandevu, as a priority, with Lifeplayers. Student grades will be recorded pre and after Taonga Market learning to track progress. In addition, teachers and learners will be interviewed to determine what other benefits they have derived from the interactive radio learning approach.
I’ve seen Taonga Market classes dozens times over the years, but it has been sometime since I’ve watched a first time class participate. After we left I found the theme song swirling in my head, all the while noticing that my jaw ached from smiling.
Lifeline Energy intern Kathleen Buchholz recently travelled to Lusaka, Zambia to research the relationship between energy poverty and education using Learning at Taonga Market as her case study. In her soon-to-be published MA thesis for the American University of Paris, Kathleen interviews students, mentors and parents, all of whom discussed how needed the radio school program was for the community. Our solar and wind-up radios provided sustainable access to the lessons for children and the Taonga Market training gave confidence to the teachers and overall again validated the importance of this great radio program.
The following observations were gathered by Kathleen and reflect the responses that we’ve heard repeatedly over the years:
“When they hear a pupil talking on Taonga Market, the children would get encouraged and it made them want to be a teacher when they grow up.”
“Taonga Market is so important because it makes it easier for the teacher to make their lesson plans. The work was so much easier for us and the children enjoyed it very much, too. The program is a direct one and it helped a lot of children in terms of songs and motivation.”
“I was a teacher at Taonga Market at Chaise Basic School. It was so important because it helped a lot of the children that could not manage to pay for the fees for government schools. The children’s grades improved and actually you would see children come from government schools to join Taonga Market. Without Taonga it is difficult, as we have a lot of kids in the compounds not going to schools.”
New mother Oranta is a volunteer teaching mentor for a Grade 4 class at a community school in Zambia's Southern Province. Although she's not a formally trained teacher, Oranta loves teaching children.
For five years now Oranta, 27, has relied on the Learning at Taonga Market distance education programme for teaching support. Each school day 42 learners, some in hand-me-down school uniforms and some in regular clothes, arrive from the local area by 1:00 pm for their school lessons.
The Taonga radio lessons are broadcast in the afternoon as children are needed to help their parents with farming, cattle herding or charcoal production in the morning. A local survey revealed that 95% of primary school children are engaged in some type of work to help the family. After the lesson, which is broadcast by the Chukuni Community Radio Station, the children stay behind and do homework as instructed by the excellent radio teacher, Mrs Musando. A workbook for teaching mentors supports Oranta in carrying out these exercises.
The school operates from Catholic church and each radio school class meets one right after the other. There's only one of our radios at this school - so far. The community is in the process of building a bricks and mortar classroom and we're in the process of donating additional radios. You might have noticed that Oranta has her young son on her back. No one seems to mind.
Please support teachers like Oranta. The Learning at Taonga Market programme not only educates children, but trains teachers as well.
For a change, we thought a video might inspire some of you to continue your commitment to educating children taking part in the Learning at Taonga Market distance programme. In this short video children participating in Taonga tell us in their own words why it means so much to them.
The Zambian Ministry of Education’s highly successful Learning at Taonga Market radio distance education programme – now in its 11th year – reaches hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. The initiative delivers a high quality, basic education based on the Zambian national school curriculum. It uses effective interactive radio instruction (IRI) methodology and programmes are broadcast over community radio stations across Zambia.
Please share with your friends! The Lifeline Energy Team
Lifeline Energy’s CEO Kristine Pearson has just returned from visiting community schools in Zambia that use the Taonga Market radio education programme. The Hakalinda Community School in the Southern Province was just one of the country’s expanding community schools that received Prime radios. Hakalinda’s enrolment is only 120 children and Grades 4 and 5 and Grades 6 and 7 are combined. The nearest government primary school is six miles away and although primary education is free in Zambia, textbooks and uniforms for children are beyond many parents’ means. The teacher, Emmanuel, 28, does his best using the teaching workbooks provided by the ministry to instruct these youngsters of subsistence farmers and cattle herders. Until now this class didn’t have a radio. Each school day at 2:00 pm, 20 Grade 1 Hakalinda learners take their place. The Grade 1 children don’t seem to mind that they don’t have chairs, desks, a proper blackboard, or that their classroom is thatch and missing walls. Emmanuel isn’t actually a trained teacher. He’s what’s called a ‘mentor’ – a literate adult trained to use interactive radio instruction and to use radio as a teaching tool. Nonetheless, the children call him teacher, which makes him feel proud. Emmanuel was so thrilled to receive a Prime radio, saying that the radio would help him and the learners ‘so much’. Emmanuel is a volunteer and dreams of becoming a government school teacher. Serving as a mentor in the Taonga Market programme he says will give him knowledge, discipline and patience. Taonga lessons provide clear instructions to the teachers and pupils according to the Zambian national curriculum. The Taonga programmes are broadcast from the Jesuit-run Chikuni Mission Community Radio Station. With a footprint of 35 miles, it reaches all 11 community schools in the district, all of which are receiving our radios. Lifeline Energy has been providing radios to the Taonga Market programme for more than a decade. Were it not for communities who build classrooms, mentors and parents who volunteer their time and high-impact engaging radio school lessons, tens of thousands of Zambia children would miss out on an education. The Taonga learners thank you for your continued support of this unique educational initiative.
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